Whats Up With Culture?: http://www3.uop.edu/sis/culture/index.htm
Culture shock: the anxiety produced
when you move to a completely new environment. Itís the feeling
of not knowing what to do or how to do things in a new
environment, and not knowing what is appropriate or
inappropriate. It generally starts during the first few
days/weeks of arriving in a new place.
Culture shock includes the physical
and emotional discomfort you suffer when coming to live in
another country or a place different from what you know. The way
you lived before may not work in the new place. So much is
different, from the language to banking, from telephone
etiquette to flirting, from how you behave with a professor or a
fellow student to how you schedule your day.
The symptoms of culture shock can
show up at different times, and sometimes conflicting feelings
overlap. Although you can experience real pain from culture
shock, itís also an opportunity to learn about yourself, your
own culture, and your host culture.
Symptoms may include:
Sadness, loneliness, melancholy
Preoccupation with health
Aches, pains, and allergies
Insomnia or a desire to sleep too much
Changes in temperament, including depression or
feeling vulnerable, powerless, or lethargic
Anger, irritability, resentment, or
unwillingness to interact with others
Identifying with the old culture or idealizing
the old country
Loss of identity
Trying too hard to absorb everything in the new
culture or country, or to abandon your own ways
Inability to solve simple problems
Lack of confidence or feelings of inadequacy or
Developing stereotypes about the new culture
Developing obsessions such as over-cleanliness
Longing for family or homesickness
Feeling lost, overlooked, exploited, abused, or
The Stages of
Culture shock has many stages,
which may occur one by one or overlap.
1. The honeymoon stage: you may
feel euphoric and be pleased by all the new things encountered.
Everything seems wonderful and exciting.
2. You encounter some difficult
times and crises in daily life. Miscommunication may occur. You
may feel discontent, impatient, angry, sad, misunderstood, or
even incompetent. This happens when you are trying to adapt to a
new culture thatís very different from your culture of origin.
The transition between your ways of doing things and the way
things are done in the new country is a difficult process and
takes time to complete.
3. You begin to gain some
understanding of the new culture. A new feeling of pleasure and
a sense of humor may be experienced. You may start to feel a
certain psychological balance, to feel less lost and to start
having a feeling of direction. You have begun to be more
familiar with the environment and you want to belong. This can
initiate an evaluation, or even a comparison, of the old ways
versus the new.
4. You gain perspective, realizing
that the new culture has both good and bad things to offer.
Sometimes this occurs while you are still getting to understand
the new culture, or even while you are still feeling
off-balance. Integration is accompanied by a more solid feeling
5. "Re-entry shock" can occur when
you return home. You may find that things are no longer the
same. Some of your newly-acquired customs are not appropriate at
home. On the other hand, some of the things you remember most
fondly might have changed, or you might not like them any more.
These stages are present at
different times and each person has his/her own way of reacting
to culture shock. As a result, some stages are longer and more
difficult than others. Many factors contribute to the duration
and effects of culture shock: mental health, personality type,
past experiences, socio-economic conditions, familiarity with
the language, family and/or social support systems, and level of
education will all affect how you experience living in a
Ways to Fight
Culture Shock: A Non-Exhaustive List
Remember your strengths! Remind
yourself of your talents and abilities.
Keep an open mind: different is not
necessarily better or worse. Try not to be judgmental; maintain
tolerance for otherness.
Keep your sense of humor. If you
can laugh, you will be better able to fight off embarrassment,
fear, shame, despair, and some of the other reactions people
sometimes feel when experiencing culture shock.
Eat healthy foods, get enough rest,
and avoid drinking to excess or taking drugs.
Develop a hobby (also a good way to
Remember that there are always
resources that you can use, and donít be afraid or shy to ask
Be patient. Adaptation is a
process, and it takes time.
If you encounter a problematic
situation and donít know how to handle it, ask someone you trust
to help you understand it from a local perspective.
Don't try too hard to be like
everyone else: you need to be flexible, but not to change your
Learn to include a regular form of
physical activity in your routine. This will help combat the
sadness and loneliness in a constructive manner. Exercise, swim,
take an aerobics class, etc.
Relaxation and meditation have
proven to be very helpful for people who are passing through
periods of stress.
Be curious. Ask questions Ė this
will get you using English and learning colloquial phrases while
learning important cultural cues and norms.
Maintain confidence in yourself.
Follow your ambitions and continue your plans for the future.