When Culture Shock Strikes

Whether you move to the other end of the world like Australia, or just across the channel to France – or even hopping across the Atlantic to the seemingly similar USA, you will not escape the symptoms of culture shock. It’s often pointed out across many different briefings, with even a few examples or charts to go along with it, yet despite this, we all shrug it off.

“It’s not that big of a deal!” 

“It won’t affect me! I’ll be fine!”12670876_10206293812925740_1817583365444984034_n

If you find that you are saying these statements at the moment, then I hate to tell you, you’re quite wrong. But before I continue…

Hi guys! My name is Ryshel! I’m a University of Sussex geography student (not the one with the rocks, but the one with the colouring degree) and I’m embarking on a semester long adventure in the beautiful Amsterdam! And we all know exactly what comes to mind when we think of Amsterdam, and if you say that you don’t – you’re lying (or too innocent, pick which ever you prefer)! Yet even in this very eventful city, with English-speakers no matter where you go and high street stores clustered within the city centre and the beautiful Dam Square, there are many things of which I came across which have truly made me realise just how different this mainland European culture is to our UK streets. Cultural shock is a very real thing. And how to spot it is often the hardest part of actually experiencing, with 5 different stages!

  1. You start off at the honeymoon phase! You touch down and feel the crisp wind (or sunshine for you lucky people in Australia) on your skin! The dazzling new environment you’ll be living in excites you. You think of the friends you could make and the new places you could explore! No huge authority figure telling you what you can’t and can do within your flat or apartment. Life simply feels like a breeze and you cannot wait for the adventures you will go on!
  2. You then start to realise things are not going to plan. You aren’t making as many friends as you thought, the workload and way you are taught is different, and the travelling is becoming drearier by the day. Going to the supermarket and finding all the foods you want to eat just aren’t there or don’t taste the same. Your kitchen isn’t placed the way you want it too and you start to find the smallest faults in things you usually wouldn’t – it starts to become a crisis. A culture shock. It’s simple really – none of this is the same. And you quietly wish you could go back to Brighton as the days start to feel they are dragging on.
  3. That will be your lowest point on your study abroad journey – things start to get better. You make more friends. You understand the education system a bit more.
  4. Adjustment starts to set it, you go out more often with people you actually enjoy being around and you know the streets like the back of your hand. You know how to study for that test now, and the tricks…2016-04-05 17.40.47

It starts to feel a bit more like home.

And as soon as you are fully adjusted, BAM!

You have to catch that flight back!

5. And the cycle repeats! No longer do you have to cycle everywhere you go, or enter that room you decorated so nicely with posters with words you don’t understand but were attracted to because hey! Ryan Gosling is on it!12512413_10206293815045793_6010694011494532015_n

Though I would love to say I am still on the honeymoon phase, I wouldn’t be completely honest. Recovery seems more like the place I am in, as I start to grasp how things work here, and that others around me feel the same way. But remember, some stages take longer than others, while some may not happen at all. And that’s okay! You’ll go through the motions but as long as you make this place a home, with posters and photos on the walls or a vase of flowers on your side table, you’ll get to that adjustment phase too!

Ryshel Patel is a second year Geography student who is currently completing a semester abroad at the University of Amsterdam through the Study Abroad programme.


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