Culture shock and how to deal with it

What is culture shock?

Travelling is all about new experiences, and discovering the culture of a different country is part of the adventure. However, when you visit a new country it can be difficult to adjust to these cultural differences, whether you´re a few hours from home, or on the other side of the world! Read on to learn about some of the ways you might experience culture shock and how you can overcome it in order to enjoy your stay in Spain!

Food

This is one of the most common forms of culture shock and something that most people experience. Even if you´re keen to try new foods, you will probably miss some things from home and be surprised by what you can´t find in the supermarket. In cities, you will be able to find many ingredients in international food stores, but if you are headed for a more rural location it might be wise to pack anything that you can´t live without in your suitcase.

Spanish food
Language

This might seem obvious, but finding your feet can be challenging if you´re not already proficient in the language when you arrive in a foreign country. Again, in a big city like Madrid you are sure to find someone who speaks your language, but you may still feel isolated for the first few weeks. The only way to really overcome this barrier is to immerse yourself in the language, through classes or language exchanges, but it could be helpful to try and find a network of people who speak your language while you settle in.

Spanish language
Pace of life

This is something which foreigners in Spain tend to struggle with, and it can take a long time to adapt to a new schedule. In Spain, mealtimes tend to be later and longer, which can result in very long days. You may also notice this “no rush” attitude in the relaxed approach to punctuality and the way people take their time in shops and the like. If you come from a fast-paced culture where being on time means arriving early, this can be a difficult adjustment to make. Of course, if you are eating at home, you can choose your mealtimes, but there´s really no way round it if you go to a restaurant, as you are restricted by their hours of service.

Pace of life
Greetings and interactions

The way people greet each other varies greatly between cultures; what is considered normal in one country can be interpreted as an insult in another! In Spain, it is common to greet someone you know with a kiss on each cheek, which might seem very intimate if you are used to a handshake. This is true of interactions in general in Spain – people tend to stand close and it is entirely normal to touch the person you are talking to, on the arm for example. At first this might make you feel uncomfortable, but with time you should get used to this way of communicating.

Greetings in Spanish

Hopefully these tips have given you an idea of the challenges you might face when you arrive in a new country, and how you can deal with them, but the most important thing to remember is that it´s completely normal to feel a little lost at first, this doesn´t mean you won´t soon feel at home!