Question about Daily Life Overseas for missionaries:

"How do I learn how to deal with culture shock?"

"Get good training before serving cross-culturally."

Answer from Jim, who has served with The Mission Society for ten years in Kazakhstan.

The key to handling culture shock is be thoroughly trained before going overseas. While there is no preventative cure, several things will help make you a more effective witness for Christ. For example, setting realistic expectations, focusing only on culture and language during the first year, bonding intentionally with nationals rather than hanging out with other expatriates, and resisting the temptation to communicate frequently with home.

Missionary Training International in Colorado Springs has excellent prefield training courses, if your agency does not provide this type of training.

"Learn about culture shock before you experience it."

Answer from T. K., who has recently completed training to serve in Ireland with Greater Europe Mission.

Part of our mission's requirement for appointees is a month or more of prefield training that deals specifically with culture shock. We spent a month at the Center for Intercultural Studies in North Carolina taking the Equipping Course and exploring topics such as transitions, worldview, ethnocentrism, culture theory, culture shock/stress, contextualization, cross-cultural communication, expectations, and more.

Understanding the culture is essential in dealing with culture shock. This is a process, but reading and observing will start you on your way. Another important factor is for you to understand that culture shock is a stress reaction that will happen. It's a predictable part of adjustment. Knowing your own vulnerabilities and struggles is also essential in adjusting to a culture. Know that your value is in Christ, not in what you do or in how you perceive that others feel about you. This is a healthy truth to savor, even in your home culture.

Read books on crossing cultures, such as Ministering Cross-Culturally, by Lingenfelter and Mayers, and Cross-Cultural Connections, by Duane Elmer. Also, Marshall Cavendish Corporation publishes a series of books on different cultures called CultureShock! A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette. If you have a particular country in mind, this is a fantastic resource.

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