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Culture shock, much discussed, is generally thought of as a many-stage process. There’s the arrival, the ‘wall’ part-way in, the homesickness and the frustrations. It can be a long term emotional experience.

But in the short term, arriving anywhere new results in inevitable confusion. With or without guide(book), every change in location or country creates initial problems.

Here are some tips for dealing not with long-term Culture Shock, but from the initial sting of Culture Confusion:

1 – Sit down.
Take your time. There’s no rush. Don’t let others hurry you.

2 – Address your basic needs.
Confusion can lead to panic when you discover difficulties in obtaining the basics: water; food; cash. Rather than let it get to you, sort them quickly. Buy water, try some food and stock your wallet. Small victories lead to bigger ones.

3 – Gather knowledge.
Culture confusion comes when your existing knowledge doesn’t match the world around you. Tilt the balance back in your favour by finding maps, information and chatting to locals or travellers. You can even grill touts for information, as long as you’ve got a viable exit strategy to avoid their product. Once you’ve pieced together a picture, you’ll gain the confidence to take decisions.

4 – Exchange a smile.
Smiles translate into virtually any language*. Exchange a smile and you’ve made a stranger into an acquaintance; the first step towards friendship.

5 – Shower.
Cleaned, refreshed and in a change of clothes, you’ll be set to tackle any challenges ahead.

6 – Duck into a supermarket.
If you can find one, supermarkets will generally be air conditioned, clean and provide shelter from pestering touts. Take the time to swot up on standard prices (water, beer, bread) and learn what is found locally (any imported goods will carry an obviously inflated cost). Also, chocolate can be calming.

7 – Wander.
From your hotel room, streets can look scary. Sure, you might be bugged by hotel staff to take a taxi or book tours, or warned to stay indoors for safety, but taking the time to wander freely sets your bearings.

Culture confusion often provides an enjoyable thrill, but if it gets you down, these steps should see you through the worst of it and on your way to pleasant travelling.

* Even monkey language! But beware, since monkeys consider smiles an indication of aggression more than of friendship.

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