Use Your Five Senses To Help With Cultural Adjustment

Last Updated on April 12, 2019 by Estrella

use your five sense to help cultural adjustment
Use your five senses to help with cultural adjustment. Photo by Michelle Krozser from Burst.

How easy is cultural adjustment for you? Is it an adventure? Relatively easy? Exciting? Challenging? The experience is different for each person. If the adjustment is easy for you, wonderful! If you sometimes wish it were easier, this article may offer ideas that are helpful for you. They are close to home, and rather simple. Yet, sometimes it’s easy to overlook simple things. They are your 5 senses! This article is about how to use your five senses to help with cultural adjustment.

The Tastes of Home

The first time I travelled to Europe, I realized how much I missed my tea. The tea I was accustomed to drinking everyday. That first cup in the morning just set everything right. And I was missing that! It was easy to get in Seattle, but I couldn’t find it in Vienna. And I was going to be there for 10 days. So I made a mental note to myself for future travels. Bring my own tea!

What tastes are you accustomed to? Are there favorite snacks that make you feel good? Are they available here? One client told me she missed a seaweed salad that was common in her country. One day, when I was grocery shopping, I came across a salad that she described. I got some for her. Although it’s not exactly the same taste, it was close enough that it brought a big smile to her face.

Fragrance that brings back good memories

Smell. A friend took her mother to Hawaii for the first time. When her mother got out of the airport, she smelled the fragrant flowers that Hawaii is known for. They remind her of the fragrance of her native country’s flowers, and memories of her life there. This trip brought her delight that went far beyond the beauty of Hawaii.

What smells comfort you? Do those flowers grow here? Do restaurants serve them in your city? It is sheer delight when a scent brings you back in time.

A familiar voice

Have you ever been away from home for a while and have not heard your native language spoken? And when you hear someone speak your home language, did your ears perk up?

When you are travelling and meet tourists from your hometown, do you find it easier to strike up a conversation? Familiarity. Even if you have nothing else in common, it’s just nice to have that feeling, if only for a moment.

I remember watching my mother at a party. There were over 100 people in the room. Who did she talk to all evening? A woman who spoke the same dialect. There seemed to be more ease in that interaction. Although they both speak other dialects and could communicate with others in the room, they gravitated toward each other. For comfort in part, I suppose.

What brings comfort?

You get the idea. Find food and beverages that you are accustomed to. Connect with someone who speaks your own language. Find photos that give you that visual familiarity. Surround yourself with what comforts you. Bring in texture that feels good to you when you touch it. Table cloth, cushion, even furniture. Whatever helps you feel you’re home.

These are just a few examples of bringing comfort to yourself through your five senses if you ever feel a need for the familiar. If you have found other ways that also contribute to cultural adjustment, please share them with me Email

If you find this article helpful, here is one on How to balance your life as a new immigrant.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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