Hi there! My name’s Sarah, I’m a Volunteer Mentor and Program Coordinator (VMPC) at FutureSense Cambodia.
Coming to sunny Cambodia from cold and rainy England was exhilarating in so many ways but that’s not to say it didn’t come with its own set of challenges, including the infamous “culture shock”. Having travelled to and lived in a wide array of countries, this isn’t something I’d properly anticipated and it just goes to show that it can happen to anyone and everyone, whether you are a seasoned traveller or whether this is your first time abroad.
Culture shock is generally defined as the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life or a set of attitudes. In my case, I quickly realised that the underlying cause resided in the fact I arrived in-country with no notion of the local language in a setting that was unfamiliar to me, leaving me a little lost and confused. Learning some basic sentences and practising them with the very friendly Khmer staff at FutureSense as well as the locals provided me with a sense of safety and enabled me to settle in faster.
As a general rule, the best way I have found to deal with culture shock is to recognise that it is happening, accept it and practice some good old self-care, although I suppose this applies more generally to tackling the unexpected situations in life. Whether this takes the form of talking to your fellow group members, your volunteer mentor or any member of the FutureSense team you feel comfortable confiding in (we’ve all been through it!) or taking some time out and spending the afternoon in one of Battamabang’s numerous coffee shops (Kinyei is a personal favourite) with an iced mocha and a good book, rest assured that it will pass quickly as you begin to settle in your surroundings: this is just a new situation and an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Soon you’ll be getting stuck in some incredible projects that will hugely impact both the community you’ll be working in and yourself, Enjoy the ride!