How To Deal With Culture Shock

Culture shock is most likely the number one problem of any expatriate. If the foreigner is a first-timer in the country, the more the possibility of culture shock. But there are ways to combat this psychological phenomenon to make the expatriate life more comfortable, especially in the Philippines.

The more ethnic divisions or dialects a country has, the more problems we might have with culture shock and expatriate life. Imagine the various cultures one will have to deal with in a single place. The Philippines has hundreds, at least, of dialects, which means it’s possible to be dealing with as many different cultures in a community. What do we do with this? Does this mean we study each culture or dialect just to get along with people? Not necessarily. There are general tips to minimize culture shock for a more tolerable expatriate life.

No matter the confusion or disorientation about how things go or are done in a certain place, take three long and quiet deep breaths and then smile. Deep breaths put more oxygen in the brain and lungs and keep the mind straight and the circulation going right. Then the smile—well, Filipinos (and most people anywhere) often appreciate a smile. It keeps tense situations at bay. But it should be a most natural smile—not one that looks too eager to please people. An “uncommitted” smile is the word.

When the breathing and smiling becomes automatic responses to any stimulus, then go out as often as possible. Get used to the people and the place. Just accept things as they are. Nod and smile. Stop comparing the local situations with what one has back home. It will never work. Just keep mum and keenly observe everything—quiet but alert. The lesser words, the deeper one looks. Filipinos always respect deep-looking people. A good bible proverb says, “A fool, if he keeps quiet, will be deemed wise.”

Culture shock often comes in traffic jams Manila-style. Heavy, crazy traffic is what bothers expatriate life the most. Lots of foreigners show their disappointment—which isn’t wise. Be sure never to react negatively to a negative situation. To most Filipinos disenchanted foreigners are amusing to watch. They like it. But a cool one amid confusion strikes respect in them. Calm-looking foreigners to them are intelligent ones who know exactly what they’re doing.

Culture shock need not bother too much. It does come but it can be mitigated. A deep breath, a gentle smile, a cool positive attitude, and quiet alertness—all add up to a tolerable expatriate life.

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