Dealing with culture shock as an outback teacher

Dealing with culture shock as an outback teacher

Culture shock is a common experience for people who are living or traveling in a new cultural environment. Even though you may be working in Australia- some teachers liken their first time teaching remote to times they have been to a different country- being surrounded by new cultures, languages, tastes, smells, landscapes, social norms and expectations. If you have ever been overseas you might remember the feeling of excitement, curiousity, and then maybe overwhelm or exhaustion being immerse in the new culture all day or for weeks or months on end. That feeling you had overseas might be similar to what you feel when you move to teach remote for the first time.

Here are some tips for dealing with culture shock:

  1. Acknowledge and accept your feelings. It’s natural to feel a range of emotions when you’re in a new cultural environment. You have likely spent so long excited, preparing, thinking about remote and now you are finally here. When the excitement and adrenaline wears off after the big move and clean and unpack- you might have time to process your new environment. And that might come with feelings of culture shock. Don’t try to ignore or suppress your feelings. Instead, try to accept them and recognise that they are a normal part of the process. You are not alone. You are not the first teacher to feel them. You have a huge group for support in “Teachers in Remote Communities (Past, Present, Future)” on Facebook.
  2. Stay connected with your own culture. Find ways to stay connected with your own culture while you’re in your remote outback community. This might mean watching some of your favourite shows or movies or TikToks set near your home town. Or it might mean eating your favourite comfort foods. Or it might be connecting with family and friends back home. You might connect with other teachers in community who understand the feeling of culture shock, and who can provide you with your ‘cultural norm’ – sharing a cup of Earl Grey tea, or sipping a red wine, or watching Neighbours or doing a book club.
  3. Learn about the new culture. One of the best ways to cope with culture shock is to learn as much as you can about the culture you’re living in. Get out in community, talk to locals, be seen around community at footy matches or discos. Read books, listen to podcasts, listen to music, and watch shows about and by First Nations peoples (we have some great recommended reads, recommended views and recommended courses here). Try to participate in cultural activities (if the wider community are welcome) or events around community. This will help you understand and appreciate the differences between your culture and the new one. You have a rare opportunity to be immerse in and learn from the oldest continuous culture in the world.
  4. Stay healthy. Culture shock can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. Make sure to take care of yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity. Keep connected back home. Do the things you usually enjoy- keep up your physical and wellbeing routines. If you usually do yoga back home, look into doing yoga online or with a new group of friends of colleagues. If you usually go swimming when you live back home- go swimming here. There is so much change already for you- new school, students and families of different cultural backgrounds, new location, maybe even your first few years of a teaching career- keep whatever routines you can. Reduce your mental load.
  5. Reach out for support. Don’t be afraid to seek support from friends, family, or a health professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s normal to need a little extra help when you’re dealing with culture shock. Remember you have a whole online community here to help too.

We have a course for New Remote Teachers that covers mental health, brain health and managing the challenges of remote teaching. Check it out here.

Loved this post? You might also like to read: What challenges face outback teachers?Managing home sickness as a remote teacher

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Hi, we are Hakea Hustler and Carl Merrison

We help new remote teachers feel confident and successful  so that they can make the most of their time remote and live a life of adventure.

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