Episode 3: Culture Shock + How To Get By With Minimum Mishaps

Episode 3: Podcast Breakdown + Extras

We're tackling the tricky and elusive feeling of culture shock on today's episode. You'll hear about the 4 phases of culture shock we experience, as well as what they might look like for you, and some practical ways to minimize the feelings of culture shock on your next trip into the world!

Listen Below!

The Basics of Culture Shock

Whether you are visiting Ireland or England where English is spoken, or you're off to a more exotic place like Thailand, the differences in culture will stick out to you. Culture shock is essentially the feeling of trying to assimilate into another country's culture and get used to a different way of living than you are used to. 

For us, there are 4 major stages of culture shock. Of course, each of the stages can last a different amount of time for everyone, depending on you, as well as how long your trip is. 

Stages of culture shock

1. Lovin’ it

You've just arrives and you’re loving everything, everyone and the new language and food. As everything is brand new to you, you kind of in the stage of being in awe and wonder, because everything is something you've never experienced. 

2. Frustrated as shit

This is when you can start to become frustrated by the little things, like trying to figure which bus to take, order a certain drink and unable to communicate how you want. The small things you do in everyday life that should be reallllllly easy, but you struggle with. It's the things like not being able to ask questions in the native language,  figuring out how the local transportation works, or trying to understand what you're ordering at a restaurant. While each of these instances is a small thing, your day can be filled with them and they all add up and can make you feel very frustrated with just making your way through a regular day.

3. Gettin’ it                                                                                                

After a few days, or a few hours if you're a really fast learner, you've run into enough of these little miscommunications, you've begun to find solutions and work your way through them to figure things out. An example: you had a very hard time figuring out the local transport, but you’ve used it a few times now to get from your AirBnB to the city center and you get the basics of how it works. Something so simple as getting from you accommodations to the center of town was a real pain point for you, and now you've used it enough times that you're comfortable buying the right ticket, you've got the schedule down and you know exactly which stop you need to get off at. 

This translates to plenty of the other things that were making you frustrated. Whether you were trying to find plain, black coffee and could only find espresso drinks, or you're vegetarian and you were frustrated trying to find a good restaurant to fit these needs; you've walked around and figured some of these issues out and you're starting to get it and make your daily life run a bit more smoothly.

4. Let’s stay forever

After enough time in a place, you've (hopefully!) adjusted pretty well and have a basic grasp on getting around, ordering things, and are more comfortable using phrases in the local language. You've taken the local bus or train enough times that you have no problems and you breeze through the process like a pro. You have a favorite breakfast place near your AirBnB and you can more confidently walk up to the register and order your black coffee and vegetarian quiche with some gusto. You also know about how much money a taxi ride, a meal outside the city center, and a t-shirt should cost you and you can barter over prices a little bit. In short, you're feeling confident and your frustrations at being in a new culture are minimized.

Here's my example: By the end of our Peru trip, I was way more comfortable talking with taxi drivers about pricing, ordering food by myself and while my accent obviously was not great, I was more comfortable speaking in Spanish.

Preparing For culture shock


our upcoming trip to thailand

We’ve never been to Southeast Asia, but we will be going this November, and I’m a little nervous because I think it will be the MOST different place we’ve been to. So here are some things we’ll be doing to prepare for some degree of culture shock.

1. Doing our research!

We do a TON of research before our trips. From learning the good and not so good parts of town to regional food and drinks we should try, we spend some serious time researching. We also do this to make sure we understand what is considered rude or impolite. This is stuff that we would not otherwise know if we don't do the research and it doesn't make us very good guests in other countries that.

2. Learn some History

We’ll take some time and read a little bit about the overall history of Thailand and the region, so we can understand the context of the time we’re in and what’s going on in the country and surrounding areas. And while we don't need to everything and certainly won’t be doing a research paper on, getting a basic overview is a very good idea!

3. Familiarize ourselves with currency

Obviously the cost of living in Thailand is much cheaper than at home, I still don’t like getting taken for a ride and ripped off. So we’ll familiarize ourselves with the basics of bartering, currency exchange rates and do some research of the average prices that things should be, like tuk tuk rides, and a meal at a street vendor.

4. Clothes

There are temples and religious structures all over the place, so we’ll do our research on what is considered appropriate clothing to wear inside so we don’t get turned away or have people unhappy with us! Also, it’s going to be hot and humid there, so we’ll do our best to find and bring clothes that suit both the weather and the culture.

5. Food/Health/Drinks

We’ll also do some research on what foods we should try and if there’s anything we should avoid (not because it’s not good, but for any health reasons).

Here's an example: Eating meat at the outdoor market in Peru would have been a pretty shit thing to try, probably. Not because it wasn't amazing food, because everything looked very good and smelled good, but because the standards of refrigeration there were different than at home, meaning that the unrefrigerated meat probably would have made our fragile American stomachs sick.

We’ll look up common health things to look out for, such as if we should we be drinking only bottled water and not eating veggies washed in that same water. Use your head and do some research here, y'all and you can thank us later when you're not vomiting into a hole in the ground that serves a toilet. 

Key Takeaways to Minimize Culture Shock:

1. Do your research beforehand and learn the customs and what is considered rude and polite

2. Make a conscious effort to be self-aware!

3. Stay in touch with friends/family to ward of the homesickness

4. Document your travels, keep a journal/blog and you can write about all these things during your travels

5. Be open-minded and have a sense of humor. Plenty of shit is going to go wrong and has the potential to ruin your day or your entire trip

6. Stay active! Try not to withdraw and not go out and do things because you’re uncomfortable. 

7. Be curious! This is a great opportunity to learn alllll kinds of things that you would otherwise never know, use it to learn about how different people lives, and cultures operate, and how to order food in French, or Spanish, or German. You’ll come home with all kinds of cool knowledge that will be handy on your next trip out into the world


The 4 stages of culture shock    [00:01:46]

Our examples of culture shock in Croatia, Peru and Sweden   [00:07:02]

Upcoming trip to Thailand & what we'll be doing to prepare for culture shock   [00:14:00]

Research and precautions you can take to minimize your culture shock [00:24:41]