Tips to overcome culture shock in Palestine: So you’ve made the decision to take the long journey to Palestine and you’ve found yourself across borders, miles away from home, in a country where nothing and no one is familiar? “Oh no”, you’re thinking, “this the part where the shock sets in.” You start panicking, doubting your decision and you probably already have one hand on your cellphone, ready to book the first flight back home. Well, this is the part where we tell you that all these emotions are exceptionally normal. No, you are not falling through a downward spiral of self-pity, you are just experiencing what is called “culture shock”.
“Culture shock” can be described as the effect of being cut off from familiar culture environment and norm. The effects of removing a person from the familiar and throwing such a person head first into the unknown can be quite daunting. But alas, all is not lost. The truth is, most foreigners experience culture shock within their first few weeks of visiting a new country. Yes, while visiting a new land can be tremendously intimidating, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you get through the effects of culture shock with the least pain possible, in order to enable you to make the most of your volunteer experience.
- Plan ahead
As a point of departure and before you decide to brave the unknown, it would do good to familiarise yourself with the culture, traditions, and language of the people whom you are soon to be spending the bulk of your time with. Take some time out prior to departure to learn about the Arab culture, types of food and religions that you might come across. You will find useful videos on Youtube and informative reading material online that will assist in giving you a good idea of what lies in store for you once you reach Hebron. Although no book or video can substitute for the knowledge you will gain once you have experienced the Palestinian lifestyle for yourself, educating yourself on the culture and lifestyle of the Palestinian people will serve as a great anticipatory step and will definitely ease your journey tenfold. Remember, over preparation is key!
- Familiarise yourself with Arabic words
It is true that most people in Hebron, Palestine speak a fairly decent amount of English and are always eager and willing to help – it is, therefore, unlikely that you will have difficulty getting around at all. However, it does help to learn a few common Arabic phrases to assist you in your early days post arrival. Remember, that even though it is unlikely that you will face a communication barrier once you’ve arrived, learning a few words and phrases in the language of the people will go a long way in helping you integrate into an unknown lifestyle and making new friends. As the ode goes, when in Rome…
- Explore, explore, explore!
During your free time, you will have the opportunity to travel to various different places around the country. Be sure to get out your adventurer’s hat and start exploring! Remember, the easiest way to find comfort in a new surrounding is by becoming a part of it. Enquire about common tourist hotspots and encourage yourself be willing and open to trying new things and meeting new people.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Remember that you are not alone. If you have any serious concerns or are unsure or uncomfortable about a situation, your Excellence Centre family will be more than willing to assist you in the best means possible, to help you overcome your fears or hesitations.
The truth is, once you’ve arrived as a foreigner to a country where nothing is familiar, your natural instinct will be to reminisce about your own country and lifestyle. You might find that you miss your family and your home a lot more than you had anticipated and you might often find yourself drawing comparisons between the familiar and the unknown. The trick is to remember that while it is important to maintain contact with your family and friends back home, it is also important to approach your new lifestyle with fresh eyes and an open mind. While the differences might be overwhelming to say the least, remember that there is always one defining similarity that outweighs any of the differences, and that is, that the people you will meet are people just like you. At the end of the day, finding commonalities instead of differences will help you overcome the immense change in lifest