There are three things you need to know about culture. Here’s the first thing: You’re unwittingly trapped in a cultural matrix – a virtual world generated by your brain in concert with other human brains. Here’s the second thing: As long as your cultural matrix is similar to those around you, you won’t know it’s a simulation. It will look and feel to you like the real world. Until that is, you collide with a different matrix. This leads to the third thing: You can actually use the shock of that collision to improve yourself, your relationships, and maybe even your world.

The signs of culture shock are everywhere these days—on social media, between nations and groups, in our streets and homes. Culture shock hurts because it feels like a threat—either a realistic threat to your life or livelihood or a symbolic threat to your own or your group’s cherished worldviews and ways of life. What’s more, because it hurts, we naturally resist it. This leads to confusion, conflict, and often deep regret.

But what if it doesn’t have to be that way? What if it turns out that, counter-intuitively, you’re actually safer and better off learning to embrace culture shock rather than avoid it? In this book, anthropologist Michael J. Kimball charts this path with a set of engaging principles and techniques rooted in anthropology, neuroscience, cultural psychology and mindfulness studies. With these in hand, you’ll learn to disrupt your habitual reactions to the unfamiliar, grow your resilience to cultural discomfort, and transform culture shock into connection. In other words, you’ll be on your way to being ethnowise.