Learning Opportunity Of
Travel Culture Shock. 

Travel culture shock is an inevitable consequence of going away from home, from a familiar environment. It varies to a degree of difference of what is known as normal to us. 

Cultural shock arises as an indicator of our perceptual limits. Entering a state of culture shock could be an opportunity to check if our sensors are open to what is presented to us or we are cruising in a state of attachments to the past knowledge. It is like driving a car and suddenly entering a dense fog — we may feel disoriented and jolted out of a sense of comfort. We have to turn our headlights on and begin to pay close attention.

Nature of cultural shock indirectly reflects how fluent we are in understanding of our own reality and able to adapt to change in conditions. That is one of the reasons why travel is enriching, it forces us to transform and increase dimension of our awareness. It is often experienced as a degree of discomfort, from frustration, confusion to tension and depression.

If we analyze culture shock, we find that it is our old "self", our set of entrenched habits that give rise to experience of discomfort, embarrassment or confusion when faced with a new cultural environment. Native people that we encounter are probably adept at the set of rules and habits of culture they live in. Then how can it be that while we are in the same environment as they are yet have very different experience if what appears so real to us could exist "out there" as inherently existent? 

This is a profound opportunity of travel culture shock to understand direct connection between our belief system and experience of reality. This insight alone could be life-changing.
Travel culture shock can give us a tremendous opportunity to break through habitual way of being and recognize our own assumptions and projections that give rise to many internal and external conflicts. The implications of this insight could reach beyond travel. This is one of the reasons that travel opens our minds to see wider perspectives and appreciate different points of view.
When we are willing to look into the eyes of cultural shock, we may discover that what appears "out there" gains foothold in our experience as "reality" through internally assigned meaning. If we relax our insistence on "righteousness" of our meaning, we can reduce internal friction with what really IS out there.


Travel culture shock is a secret opportunity for personal growth and spiritual transformation. If approached with a positive attitude of self-awareness, cultural shock could be a feedback loop for a rapid self-mastery. Looking at the source of appearances instead of what appears, there is an opportunity to soften up hard edges of self-definition. 

If traveling alone cultural shock can become very acute, pointing us to a steep and rapid learning curve if we have resolve to do it. When we refuse to do it, we feel foreign, uncomfortable and tend to coil up in isolation to avoid cultural assimilation. 
Group travel minimizes cultural assimilation due to continual affiliation with familiar cultural values within the group where travelers shield themselves from uncomfortable exposure to intricacies of local culture.

This a secret power of individual travel — it presents conditions for change. Unfortunately there is very little incentive in changing ourselves remaining in a comfort zone of the familiar. Culture shock of travel is a hidden blessing that may lead to increase in self-knowledge, openness, acceptance and growth.


Severe symptoms of depression and withdrawal from travel culture shock result from more extreme attitude of prejudice, fear and suspicion. It needs not to be confused with healthy skepticism toward new culture or strangers.

Even though the feelings from cultural shock are very similar:

  • Frustration

  • Tension

  • Confusion

  • Embarassment

It would be helpful to understand the cause that results in having these feelings. It might be hidden from our consciousness awareness - a mindset of fear, resistance and prejudice. The moment we recognize  it, we can choose the antidote of equanimity, openness and acceptance. 

  • Mindset of Openness and Acceptance.
    Positive response to travel culture shock gives rise to healthy strategies:
    Observe. Pay attention to what is happening without overlaying anything with your cultural filter, don't project. 
    Listen. Listen to the sound, to the essence of what is being said without assumption.
    Inquire. Politely clarify what you noticed and heard. Allow yourself to be curious, ask questions with sincerity.This approach promotes cross cultural communication resulting in positive outcome of rapport and understanding.

  • Mindset of Fear and Prejudice.
    This attitude generates a choice of reactive response to cultural differences with intention to:
    Criticize. looking for what is inadequate or inferior to affirm ones own position.
    Rationalize. Explaining the cultural differences from a distance of safety of non-contact.
    Withdraw. Avoiding any substantial interaction with new culture to eliminate discomfort of learning and change. An approach to cultural differences with fear and prejudice perpetuates a state of culture shock resulting in behavior of avoidance, alienation or arrogant scorn.
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