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On a personal experience of cultural adaptation Essay

This paper, from the perspective of microculture, mainly explores how the cultural anthropological theory “cultural adaptation” works on a personal experience of a student who pursues her further study inter-regionally in the different provinces of China. Much more focus will be given on the main models the personal cultural adaptation has followed in the study. Different levels of personal cultural adaptation outcomes will also be discussed in the later part of this paper. Keywords: Cultural adaptation, Model, Experience 1. Introduction

Adaptation, originally as a biological concept, is an alteration or adjustment in structure or habits, by which a species or individual improves its condition in relationship to its environment. Every creature on the earth, including human beings, has the essential and innate capacity of adapting to the outer environment. That is on the level of biological adaptation. The evolution of human beings makes them outmatch all the other creatures to develop their own language and culture, which is unique only among themselves. At this time, the adaptation of human beings could not only be confined in the scope of biological one.

Cultural adaptation, at this point, is necessary and indispensable for the further development of human beings. The significance and importance can be represented especially when the cultural contexts or environments have changed no matter it is a change of international, intercultural, interethnic, inter-religion, or inter-region, etc. The term “microculture”, the counterpart of “macroculture”, can refer to a social group that shares distinctive traits, values, and behaviors that set it apart from the parent macroculture of which it is a part (Gollnick & Chinn, 1998).

The identity of microculture can be based on traits and values of different ethnic origin, religion, gender, age, socioeconomic status, geographic region, place of residence conditions, and so on, among which, geographic region and place of residence will be what I give my focus on in this paper. The change of geographic region and place of residence will evoke the change in psychology and behavior to adjust and adapt oneself to the new environments. 2. Cultural Adaptation 2. 1 Cultural Adaptation versus Biological Adaptation

Human beings, like other living creatures in the world, also have biological and psychological needs. Other animals fill their needs primarily through biological adaptation, for example, a lion uses speed and sharp teeth and claws to capture and eat its prey. However, our human beings develop forms of knowledge and technologies that enable them to get the necessary energy from the environment and make life more secure. This knowledge and technology forms a core of culture that can be passed from generation to generation and group and group, so human beings adapt to their world culturally (Nanda & Warms, 2002).

Cultural adaptation has some distinct advantages over biological adaptation. Because human adapt through learned behavior, they can change their approach to solving problems more quickly and easily. However, creatures whose adaptations are primarily biological change slowly (Nanda & Warms, 2002). Adaptation, coming being into one of the basic characteristics of culture, makes people develop to accommodate environmental conditions and available natural and technological resources (Gollnick & Chinn, 1998).

Culture, in fact, is the way human beings adapt to the world (Nanda & Warms, 2002). 168 ISSN 1911-2017 E-ISSN 1911-2025 www. ccsenet. org/ass Asian Social Science Vol. 6, No. 9; September 2010 2. 2 The Definition of Cultural Adaptation From the aspect of sociology and anthropology, cultural adaptation is the long-term process of adjusting and finally feeling comfortable in a new environment (Kim & Gudykunst, 1988). Immigrants who enter a culture more or less voluntarily and who at some point decide to adapt to the new cultural context experience cultural adaptation in a positive way.

Cultural adaptation, especially intercultural adaptation is broadly used in the literature of intercultural communication studies, and according to Kim, it refers to the process of increasing the level of fitness of people to meet the demands of a new cultural environment. It deals with how sojourners or new immigrants experience the distress caused by mismatches or incompatibility between the host culture and the culture of birth (Fan, 2004). 2. 3 Models of Cultural Adaptation 2. 3. 1 The Anxiety and Uncertainty Management Model

This model was put forward by communication theorist William Gudykunst. He stresses that the goal of effective intercultural communication can be reached by reducing anxiety and seeking information, the so-called uncertainty reduction (Gudykunst, 1995). The uncertainty can be classified into different types. Predictive uncertainty is the inability to predict what someone will say or do. Explanatory uncertainty is the inability to explain why people behave as they do (Martin & Nakayama, 2000). In fact, some level of anxiety is optimal during an interaction.

Too little anxiety may convey that we don’t care about the person. Too much anxiety causes us to focus only on the anxiety and not on the interaction. This model assumes that to communicate effectively we will gather information to help us reduce uncertainty and anxiety. The theory predicts that the most effective communicators are people who have a solid self-concept and self-esteem, have flexible attitudes (a tolerance for ambiguity, empathy) and behaviors and are complex and flexible in their categorization of others (Martin & Nakayama, 2000). 2. 3.

2 The U-Curve Model This model, applied to many different migrant groups, is based on research conducted by a Norwegian sociologist, Sverre Lysgaard, who interviewed Norwegian students studying in the United States. The main idea is that migrants go through fairly predictable phases in adapting to a new cultural situation. The first phase is the anticipation or excitement phase. The second phase, culture shock, happens to almost everyone in intercultural transitions. During this phase, migrants experience disorientation and often a crisis of identity.

Because identities are shaped and maintained by one’s own cultural context, experiences in new cultural contexts often raise questions about identities. The third phase is adaptation. In this phase, how much of the migrants should be changed and to what degree should he or she to adapt is what should be pay attention to (Martin & Nakayama, 2000). 2. 3. 3 The Transition Model Culture shock and adaptation have been viewed as a normal part of human experience, as a subcategory of transition shock.

Janet Bennett (1998), a communication scholar, says that culture shock and adaptation are just like any other transition, such as going away to college, getting married, or moving from one part of the country to another. Psychologists have found that in this model most individuals prefer either a “flight” or “fight” approach to unfamiliar situations. The first preference, the “flight” approach, is to hang back, get the lay of the land, and see how things work before taking the plunge and joining in. The second preference, the “fight” approach, is to get in there and participate.

Migrants who take this approach use the trial-and-error method. Individual preference is a result of family, social, and cultural influences. An alternative to fight or flight is the flex approach, in which the migrant uses a combination of productive fight or flight behaviors (Martin & Nakayama, 2000). 3. Microculture or Subculture Microculture, as a counterpart of macroculture, refers to these groups which exist within the context of a larger society and share political and social institutions as well as some of the traits and values of the microculture.

It can also be called subsocieties or subcultures. These cultural groups are called microcultures to indicate that they have distinctive cultural patterns while sharing some cultural patterns with all members of the macroculture and their unique patterns will identity themselves as members of their particular group. Cultural identity is based on several traits and values learned as a part of the national or ethnic origin, religion, gender, age, socioeconomic status, geographic region, place of residence conditions and so on (Gollnick & Chinn, 1998).


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