Culture shock can be very real. The term describes the stress phenomena that many travellers experience when arriving in countries where physical surroundings, facilities and behaviour patterns can be very different from those in their own countries.
The causes are multiple and are often inter-related but include:
- Tiredness and jet lag after arrival.
- Differences in climate.
- Toilet and bathing facilities.
- Poor hygiene, both in accommodation and elsewhere.
- Language and culture differences.
- Crowded roads and dangerous public transport.
- Coping with unexpected illnesses such as travellers' diarrhoea can be the 'last straw'.
Knowing that the differences are to be expected may help but this does not always help overcome the associated stress.
- Home sickness
- Panic attacks
- Unaccustomed anxiety and even, in the longer term, depressive illnesses.
Family or social difficulties at home and psychological problems make adapting difficult. Some travellers go abroad to escape unresolved problems and this may just make them worse. Time differences between continents might increase isolation when it is difficult to maintain contact with friends and relatives.
A situation that is exciting and welcome to one person can be daunting to others. Being open to new and different cultures and being patient, rather than critical, will help the traveller adapt to new and challenging adventures.