What is culture shock?

When you ask people to tell you what has been the most amazing thing they have done, most often it is something they have done that took them out of their comfort zone. What has taken you out of your comfort zone? 

In our everyday lives we tend to form routines that we execute on a daily basis i.e. our everyday lives. We live in this bubble of familiarity and get stuck in it way too easily. One of the best ways to get out of it, out of your comfort zone, is to travel to a foreign country. When people travel to foreign countries for the first time or even to a new country as a regular traveler, they often might be left feeling disoriented. This is because they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life or set of attitudes. In other words, they are experiencing culture shock.

Living abroad (for a short or long term) can be an exhilarating experience that encourages new world views, increases cultural curiosity and supports willingness to explore unfamiliar terrains. However, it may also invite a sense of feeling a little lost in the world.


Culture shock can definitely be eye opening, even sometimes scary and uncomfortable. Well definitely uncomfortable as you are out of your comfort zone. Most people experience a degree of homesickness and distress. It just sounds unpleasant. Nonetheless, it is actually really good for you. Here are five reasons why:

  1. It helps you build character and shapes your personality. You can learn to be much more self aware and find yourself in times of loneliness. Most of all it helps you to grow a thicker skin, adaptability to unfamiliarity and teaches you to trust yourself and your instincts.
  2. After the initial shock, you adapt and gain the opportunity to expand your network of friends. Having an international circle of friends predisposes you to different perspectives. Also it opens doors to opportunities you would have never had in the comfort of your own home.
  3. You get in touch with new languages. Today a secondary language is not a merit but almost a necessity in the professional world. Learning a new language is much quicker is you are exposed to it on a daily basis. Also in a foreign country you get into situations where you have to communicate and make yourself understood. You simply have to start speaking.
  4. The world is a small place and despite our differences we are all dependent on it. We are here together. It teaches you of cultural understanding and tolerance that can be valuable in your professional and personal lives.
  5. You should not be afraid of culture shock or other cultures in fact. Experiencing them can be an extremely liberating experience. Furthermore, travelling with a purpose in itself gives you the opportunity to experience things most of which you never will. Not only does it make you grow as a person, but you can take the teachings you learned and teach them to others.

Not only is experiencing culture shock good for you but it can be so much more. You can either get offended by it and never look at it again. Or you can learn from it, enjoy new things, grow as a person and never look back. All you have to do is go for it and the rest is up to you.

Travel with purpose for an AIESEC exchange product and experience a unique culture shock and develop yourself & the world. Learn more about how you can discover your world here!