Culture shock can strike expats unexpectedly when they move overseas for an assignment, particularly when they are expecting their new home country to be very similar to the one they left behind because of distance or language similarities. Culture shock can lead to homesickness, a lack of self-confidence, insomnia, anger, or even depression and there is no quick fix to adjust to life abroad but preparation can help.
Virtual reality tools can help pre-arrival to encourage you to consider and learn how different life will be in your host country. By touring a virtual world, the visual immersion allows you to experience firsthand, in a safe environment, how a city looks; the architecture, shop fronts, a new language on billboards, the public transport network and the type of amenities available.
Training packages using virtual reality software are widespread, encompassing a range of scenarios such as military simulations, therapy for disorders and phobias and workplace situations. Cultural training material is also available in the form of computer simulation and virtual games. Simulation tools help expats to understand the differences they will face in communication, lifestyle, daily routines and mindset, to help ease the transition to a new country.
Virtual reality tools also provide an environment for interactive and engaging language training, with virtual worlds promoting listening comprehension in a foreign language and providing the opportunity to practice what you have learnt in real scenarios such as pharmacies, train stations and shops, as well as meet others learning the same language. This technique of language training is particularly effective because it is wholly immersive, accessible for the whole family and can begin before you move overseas. When you touch down in a new country, you already possess the basic language skills to understand signs and get by in basic social situations, making you feel more comfortable in your new environment from day one.
A visit to a virtual city opens up a social network to you in your host country too. It allows expat organisations, social clubs and networks to promote their activities to you so that you can be aware of groups and events before you arrive. You can also interact with other expats prior to relocating; ask advice and information about life in the destination city and make friends that you can meet up with when you arrive abroad. Social interaction in the anonymity of virtual worlds helps break down barriers that can exist in a real life situation and a network waiting for you in your new home supports the adjustment to life overseas.
The Chamber of Commerce and companies relevant to your expat needs are also able to have a presence in a virtual world, putting you in touch with contacts and services that may be useful to you during your relocation, or after.
Widening your network and contacts before you arrive overseas contributes to you feeling more comfortable on arrival, and helps you to know where to turn when you need a helping hand.