1. Consider the benefits

New sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures throw our own world into perspective. We question who we are, how we do things and why. We absorb new information and then try to make sense of it by integrating it with who we are, what we know and how we function.

To do this, we need to be flexible and adapt. That implies changes in behavior and perspective: we adopt new manners and develop new ways of interacting with others. These changes help us be more understanding, compassionate and broaden our horizon.

Can you say growth!?

2. Use food as an icebreaker

Food can give you a tasty insight into another country’s culinary traditions. Food is also a source of comfort. It’s a great way to learn about a new country and connect with people over something that we share: the need for food. A great icebreaker for sure! For tips on how to use food as an icebreaker, click here.

If you have food allergies, you might find this post helpful.

3. Communicate

Please, thank you and a smile go a long way, obviously. Learn some basic phrases to get you started.

Bring a small phrase book, pocket dictionary or app, depending on where you go and what kind of trip it is.

While this may not lead to an in depth conversation about political or social issues, it gives you a place to start. Communicate not only to express your needs but also to ask questions and learn something.

Remember that most communication is nonverbal, so don’t be afraid to use your hands and feet – that’s always fun no matter how clumsy it might feel! Don’t just stick to words. Find out about body language. What’s the polite way to hail a cab? Beckon someone to come over? Is it rude or polite to look someone directly in the eyes? Observe.

4. Slow down

This is an opportunity to slow down and take it easy. Take your time to adapt. Let go of any preconceptions you might have. Leave stress and pressure behind.

Don’t force yourself to visit as many sights as you can – even if you think you should. The point is to enjoy your trip, isn’t it? Make a choice and then relax.

This is a great time to get to know yourself a little better by observing your reactions and understanding your needs in a challenging situation.

Allow yourself time to fully experience this transition.

5. Practice gratefulness

Seeing life from a different perspective is a wonderful way to learn to appreciate what we are given in life, both at home and on the road.

Here are some of the things I’ve become grateful for while traveling:

  • hot water
  • clean water
  • a bed
  • access to fresh food
  • restrooms

Mostly, though, I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers, conversations I had with people I met along the way, friends I made, lessons I learned and the privilege of having had the opportunity to experience all this in the first place.

For more information on how to deal with culture shock, take a look at my upcoming ebook.