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 others. 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 use that collision to improve yourself, your relationships, and maybe even your world.

Thanks to globalizing economies, unprecedented human migration, and diverse expressions of personal and social identities, our 21st century world seems to be lighting up with culture shock—knee-jerk reactions to the culturally unfamiliar. Culture shock 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. The result is often a defensive reaction that can cause confusion, conflict and 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.