Dealing with culture shock when studying abroad in Spain

Culture Shock-image by iamromania.comIt is perfectly natural to experience culture shock when moving to a new country- feeling homesick, missing family and friends and feeling lost at times are just part and parcel of moving abroad. Almost everyone experiences such feelings from time to time!

Stages of culture shock

Culture shock is not something that tends to hit immediately. Initially, in a stage known commonly as the ‘honeymoon phase’, most people fall in love with their new city. Imagine arriving in Malaga, enjoying the heat, exploring the city centre and spending time at the beach with new friends…bliss!

A few weeks later, reality hits. You miss your country, your friends and family and your home comforts. You start to complain about everything and everything- the stifling heat, the lack of punctuality, the ‘mañana’ attitude… Here are some tips on how to cope:

Do your research

This is key to coping with culture shock: the more you know, the less your new home can catch you off guard. Before arriving, read up on Spain and the specific city you will be studying in. You will start to realize the particular cultural quirks- the observance of the siesta means that some businesses will shut in the early afternoon for a few hours. Spaniards tend to be laid back and have relaxed attitudes to timekeeping and punctuality. Mealtimes are different: lunch is eaten at around 2 or 3pm and dinner at 9pm at the absolute earliest, usually around 10pm. Additionally, people tend to stay up later- it is not uncommon to see children playing out in the street until midnight, and a night out won’t start until 12pm (clubs usually stay open until 6am).

At GoStudySpain, we have a Pre-Study Orientation program which will take place upon arrival. You will be given a tour of the city and be shown where the university is to ease you into your new surroundings.

Make Spanish friendsspanish friends- image by

As you will be studying at a university, opportunities to make friends will be numerous. Do take the opportunity to sign up for a language exchange partner- you can do this online but there will usually be cafes and bars hosting language exchange nights, in which Spaniards and foreigners get together to spend time practicing both Spanish and foreign languages. Your Spanish friends will be able to help you settle in, will know all the best places to go and things to do, and just generally make you feel more at home.

Make friends in your situation

While it’s not a good idea to only hang out with other foreign students, it can help if you have a friend from your host country that you can turn to- you can share your experiences and it helps having somebody else in your situation to talk to.

Enjoy it while you can

Remember, you won’t be in Spain forever- whether you are studying there for a semester or for a whole year, your time will come to an end- and sooner than you think! Keep this in mind and make the most of your time because when it’s time to leave you genuinely will miss it. So when you’re missing home, instead of wallowing get outside, explore your new surroundings, pop in to that tapas bar, go sightseeing, take lots of pictures and have fun doing ‘touristy’ things.

Barcelona Tour Bus- image by www.goworldtravelguide.comKeep in touch

Thanks to social media and Skype, keeping in touch with loved ones back home is now easier than ever. However, a word of caution: don’t be the foreign student that spends all their free time chatting to friends and family back home. Obviously it’s fine to Skype regularly but don’t cancel plans or put off doing things in Spain because you have to stay in and Skype- you will miss out!

Contact us

At GoStudySpain we are here to support you every step of the way. If you have any questions or concerns (no matter how big or small), get in touch with a member of our team and we will help you out.

Before you know it, you will have adapted to your new Spanish city and feel right at home with a new university, circle of friends and lifestyle. Enjoy your time in Spain!