Imagine, you planned your first long-term trip abroad, have packed your heavy over weighted suitcase, pictures of mom and dad peeking out of your agenda and some magazines in your bag in case you'll forget your mother-tongue.
While reading this, you might think: Ready to go! But much less is true. Many people are not well prepared for a so-called culture shock. Or even less expected: a reverse culture shock!
If you think of most countries, they all have food, families eating dinner at night, a t.v., a bathroom and children going to school. So how can having dinner with your family at home, be so different from having dinner with your family abroad?
About a year ago, I planned my own backpacking trip to Thailand and Malaysia. With only 8 kilos in my backpack, I felt the king of the world and ready to go for this amazing adventure. While having never been in an Asian country before, I thought I'd knew enough looking at brochures, pictures and stories on the internet and a few Lonely Planets. The media nowadays is able to portray much more of a country than it did years ago. Everyone can see commercials on ' Malaysia truly Asia' and get a quick preview of what the country must be like. Travel agencies inform you about the beautiful temples you'll see and the good value for your money. In a way it is great that we are able to gather so much information before our departure, but on the other hand it can in no way describe what you will experience in your journey..
Arriving in Asia, I immediately felt the heat and moisture of the climate, something I'm definitely not used to. Just a few seconds later the assistant of the hotel came to greet me with the widest smile and right away it became clear to me that Asian people are one of the most welcoming people I ever met. They love showing their culture, their country, their food and everything else they have to offer. Not a moment during my travelling through Thailand and Malaysia I had doubts in my mind about their willingness of making my stay as pleasant as possible. Of course you have to get used to the bugs, the not always hygiene in public bathrooms and the not always fast pace working style.
The best way to deal with the culture shock you will experience is to not cling too much to your own culture and embrace the culture you are about to see and feel. The key word is to be open minded and to let yourself be overwhelmed by the beauty of other people, culture and food. Try something new, dare to do something you never thought you'd do before and try not be afraid of what might happen.
The world has so much richness to discover, and it's not all gold that glitters. It's in the little things that you'll learn while being abroad, that make you realize how important it is to travel. After I had returned in my own country, I tried to implement these things I've learned while being in Asia. The hospitality of the people, the try-not-to-worry-so-much attitude and the respect they show to nature and animals. Cause even though you can have either bad or good experiences abroad with different cultures, it will always change your life and will teach you that going abroad is the best choice you ever made.