10 Tips to Avoid Cultural Assimilation Trauma


The dreaded feeling of lonely displacement hits almost everyone upon arrival to a new place. Luckily, there are tried and true ways to combat “the mean reds”—just let me throw my Breakfast at Tiffany’s reference in. Plus, intermingled with my tips are more of Amy’s photos from yesterday.

1. Accept Differences. Remind yourself that you are still on planet Earth, and that you haven’t landed on Mars. Everyone is a human. You can relate to humans on planet Earth.


2. Pace yourself. It takes time and patience to assimilate into a new culture. Take time to observe! What are they doing and saying? I found that I’m a pretty good actress when it comes to copying the gestures of my Spanish friends. Forgive yourself for mistakes. That’s how we learn, plus mistakes make for excellent stories later.

3. Learn about your new culture. Read through a guidebook (I like Lonely Planet or Rick Steves,) scour blogs, visit museums while you’re there, ask locals questions. The more you know, ya know? 

4. Listen to familiar music. Make a huge playlist before you leave and listen to it when you are feeling extremely out of place. Perhaps some Young the Giant or Patsy Cline? That being said, you should also listen to popular music of your region. Spotify. The end.


5. Facetime or Skype your nearest and dearest. Or, bring one of them. I have Cat. Thanks universe.

6. Bring something familiar to you to sleep with or on. I have a pillowcase that I used at home. And a pillow of my mothers. There’s nothing like familiar drool scent. Don’t judge.


7. Focus on making relationships. Having a familiar face in a foreign place makes all the difference. Accept invitations to do things with natives, appear happy and friendly (even if you feel like a potato), and ask questions about others. (Unless you are in a culture that doesn’t appreciate being asked questions, check the cultural handbook)

8. Learn the language. Or bits of it. When I was in The Netherlands last summer nothing made locals happier than me saying “goedemorgenor” aka “good morning” to them. Knowing bits of a language makes you feel connected to that culture, even though it’s just a few words. In my case, I’m trying to cannonball into the pool of fluency.


9. Bring Flat People. Have your friends make flat versions of themselves for you to take. They’re always good for a laugh.

10. Bring a few favorite movies. Leave those bulky cases at home and opt for plastic CD covers or load them onto a USB. They’ll give you some time in a familiar story.


11. Be brave. This one is the most important. Put yourself right in the middle of your new culture. No. Matter. How. Uncomfortable. You. Are. You can do it. You are never going to feel normal if you hide in your apartment everyday. So, take a book, local newspaper, or kindle and go sit in a café, or in a park, or in the town’s square. Take a walk if you can’t sit. Baby steps, my friends.


For those of you thinking about taking a year abroad then do it. Cat and I are both class A introverts and we’re having the time of our lives meeting new people and trying new things.

Thanks for reading!


K & A

Song of the Day: Selene | Imagine Dragons

Spanish Word of the Day: Tejer | To knit


5 thoughts on “10 Tips to Avoid Cultural Assimilation Trauma

  1. Thank you, muchas gracias!! It is a joy to read your blogs! Whenever I am with Grandmommy I catch her up on the blogs. She especially enjoyed the story of the “scents”! I know you will continue to absorb every bit of your experience with all your senses. Sending you much love and best wishes…..Tia Jackie (haven’t found the correct way to do accent marks 🙂

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