I found a reading that may be helpful to others interested in going abroad.
Adapting to International Differences
Many people find it hard to picture themselves in international contexts. Yet statistics show us that more and more people are crossing international borders every year. Here are some guidelines to help you adapt to this kind of communication situation and develop a “third culture” perspective.
1. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Preparedness is an important aspect of successful adaptation. While still in this country, read some books, take a course, or try to meet people from your host country. Ask them what you can expect. This knowledge will give you a sense of confidence and will impress host nationals with the effort you’ve made to understand their culture.
2. When you travel abroad, expect differences in material culture. In many countries housing, transportation, sanitation, food, and medical facilities may not meet the standards you are used to. Don’t dismiss the importance of these differences, but don’t let them overwhelm you either. Know that from time to time the lack of luxury and privacy will be frustrating. Don’t take your frustration out on host nationals. Instead of complaining, see how they cope. Above all, practice patience.
3. Realize that it is naturally stressful to be cut off from familiar customs and landmarks. When you feel the stress of culture shock, take a break and relax. This may mean periods in which you withdraw a bit until you regain the equilibrium needed to explore your new environment. Give yourself occasional rest periods.
4. Make friends with host nationals and ask them to introduce you to their culture. Interpersonal contacts are an important source of information. Host nationals will usually be delighted to show you the ropes, and they can take you places you’d never have the courage to explore on your own. Your trip will be much more rewarding if you have made new friends.
5. Realize that you will make mistakes. From time to time you will violate norms of your new culture, and host nationals will undoubtedly violate some of your new norms. Laugh off these mistakes and learn from them. If reactions to your behavior suddenly seem strained, ask someone what went wrong and discuss what you should have done instead. Similarly, if a new acquaintance violates one of your customs, explain the violation in a nonjudgmental and nonthreatening way. Like other forms of communication, cross-cultural misunderstandings are best repaired by metacommunication.
6. Develop an attitude of nonjudgmental curiosity. While it is natural to see differences as “wrong,” it is generally nonproductive. When you encounter a new custom, suspend your judgment and try to find out why the custom exists and how it functions within the culture. Instead of being a critic, be an observer. And remember the old proverb, “To understand all is to forgive all.” (Trenholm & Jenson, 2008, p. 405-406)
Trenholm, S. & Jensen, A. (2008). Interpersonal Communication. New York: Oxford University Press.