¿ No habla inglés? How to manage culture shock abroad

Congratulations to you for selecting Spain to be the place you wanted to study for your exchange studies. By this time in Spring you must have realized that this is a wonderful place with a relaxed atmosphere, friendly people, endless parties and warm weather. But after all this first hype is gone, have you ever experienced negative feelings towards the city, language or country? That cashier still cannot count your change right, no one can understand your accent, and you had to go to the same yoigo store six times before they can fix your prepaid subscriber connection.

Sounds familiar? If so, have no fear. It is totally normal, and most of the people travelling to another country will experience this at some point.  It’s called culture shock. The phenomenon has been explained through various theories, one of the most common being the U-curve. This model suggests that there are three stages in adapting to a new culture.

It all starts with:

  1. A honeymoon period. As the name already suggests, during that period you are all excited about your new environment, want to get to know new people and are ready to embrase the new culture.
  2. Crisis is the following stage. You start to realise that there are moments when you don’t really understand what is happening. You might face some difficulties with the language or the way people behave.
  3. Adjustment. After hitting the bottom you start slowly to understand the surrounding culture and learn to respect it. You have become aware of the cultural norms and know how to behave in different situations.
  4. Biculturalism. You have became aware of the cultural differences between the surrounding culture and your own and you have developed the skills how to manage in both of them.


So how to survive when you hit the bottom of the u-curve, when you are frustrated about everything and don’t feel like pushing any effort to go forward? We are all different and manage our negative feelings differently, but the first thing is to accept the fact that you are most likely to experience some sort of culture shock. Many times it helps to take a deep breath before you lose your mind. Talking to your friends back home or the ones near you can ease the situation as well. However, when you are feeling down, here’s some ideas what you could do about it:

  1. Keep going out and socializing with people. When you’re meeting people there’s a good chance they will lift your spirits up by having a laugh or just chilling. Have a walk around the city
  2. Take a walk around the city. Just take a look at the beautiful parts of the city to take your mind away from your problems for a second.
  3. Write a journal to get it out and clear your mind.
  4. Get an intercambio or Spanish tutor. If you need help to prep up your Spanish, there are plenty of options to find a student who can teach you and to whom you can teach for example English. Here is few: www.conversationexchange.com where you can sign up for free and find a buddy, or http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/city/Seville__Spain.asp where you can find several tips to find a tutor.

Once you’re able to calm yourself down you will notice that you will survive in most of the situations just by keeping your mind open, understanding that there are cultural differences and differences in personalities too After the experience of studying abroad you have learned a great deal about yourself and how to study and live in a different country. The fact that you can go to a new place, find friends and make your life enjoyable is already an achievement.

After all, even on the best roadtrip in the world there are always few bumps along the way, and that’s what makes the whole trip worthwhile 🙂

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