Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country or to a move between social environments also a simple travel to another type of life. One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign environment.
Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of five distinct phases: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, Mastery and Independence, are the most common attributes that pertain to existing problems, further hindrances include: information overload, language barrier, generation gap, technology gap, skill interdependence, formulation dependency, homesickness (cultural), infinite regress (homesickness), boredom (job dependency), response ability (cultural skill set).
There is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently. The four phases
During this period, the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light.
For example, in moving to a new country, an individual might love the new food, the pace of life, and the locals’ habits. During the first few weeks, most people are fascinated by the new culture. They associate with nationals who speak their language, and who are polite to the foreigners. This period is full of observations and new discoveries. Like most honeymoon periods, this stage eventually ends. Negotiation phase
After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety.
Excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one’s cultural attitude.
Language barriers, stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, food accessibility and quality may heighten the sense of disconnection from the surroundings. While being transferred into a different environment puts special pressure on communication skills, there are practical difficulties to overcome, such as circadian rhythm disruption that often leads to insomnia and daylight drowsiness; adaptation of gut flora to different bacteria levels and concentrations in food and water; difficulty in seeking treatment for illness, as medicines may have different names from the native country’s and the same active ingredients might be hard to recognize.
Still, the most important change in the period is communication: People adjusting to a new culture often feel lonely and homesick because they are not yet used to the new environment and meet people with whom they are not familiar every day. The language barrier may become a major obstacle in creating new relationships: special attention must be paid to one’s and others’ culture-specific body language signs, linguistic faux pas, conversation tone, linguistic nuances and customs, and false friends.
In the case of students studying abroad, some develop additional symptoms of loneliness that ultimately affect their lifestyles as a whole. Due to the strain of living in a different country without parental support, international students often feel anxious and feel more pressure while adjusting to new cultures—even more so when the cultural distances are wide, as patterns of logic and speech are different and a special emphasis is put on rhetoric.
Again, after some time (usually 6 to 12 months), one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines. One knows what to expect in most situations and the host country no longer feels all that new. One becomes concerned with basic living again, and things become more “normal”. One starts to develop problem-solving skills for dealing with the culture and begins to accept the culture’s ways with a positive attitude. The culture begins to make sense, and negative reactions and responses to the culture are reduced. Mastery phase
In the mastery stage assignees are able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture. Mastery does not mean total conversion; people often keep many traits from their earlier culture, such as accents and languages. It is often referred to as the biculturalism stage Reverse culture shock
Reverse Culture Shock (a.k.a. “Re-entry Shock”, or “own culture shock”) may take place — returning to one’s home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture.
The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock. This phenomenon, the reactions that members of the re-entered culture exhibit toward the re-entrant, and the inevitability of the two are encapsulated in the saying “you can’t go home again,” first coined by Thomas Wolfe in his book of that title. Outcomes
There are three basic outcomes of the Adjustment Phase:
Some people find it impossible to accept the foreign culture and integrate. They isolate themselves from the host country’s environment, which they come to perceive as hostile, withdraw into a “ghetto” and see return to their own culture as the only way out. These “Rejectors” also have the greatest problems re-integrating back home after return. Some people integrate fully and take on all parts of the host culture while losing their original identity.
They normally remain in the host country forever. This group is sometimes known as “Adopters”. Some people manage to adapt to the aspects of the host culture they see as positive, while keeping some of their own and creating their unique blend. They have no major problems returning home or relocating elsewhere. This group can be thought to be somewhat cosmopolitan. Culture shock has many different effects, time spans, and degrees of severity. Many people are handicapped by its presence and do not recognize what is bothering them. Transition shock
Culture shock is a subcategory of a more universal construct called transition shock. Transition shock is a state of loss and disorientation predicated by a change in one’s familiar environment which requires adjustment. There are many symptoms of transition shock, some which include: Excessive concern over cleanliness and health
Feelings of helplessness and withdrawal
Desire for home and old friends
Physiological stress reactions
Getting “stuck” on one thing
Suicidal or fatalistic thoughts
Compulsive eating/drinking/weight gain
Stereotyping host nationals
Hostility towards host nationals
The term, culture shock, was introduced for the first time in 1958 to describe the anxiety produced when a person moves to a completely new environment. This term expresses the lack of direction, 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. The feeling of culture shock generally sets in after the first few weeks of coming to a new place.
We can describe culture shock as the physical and emotional discomfort one suffers when coming to live in another country or a place different from the place of origin. Often, the way that we lived before is not accepted as or considered as normal in the new place. Everything is different, for example, not speaking the language, not knowing how to use banking machines, not knowing how to use the telephone and so forth.
The symptoms of cultural shock can appear at different times. Although, one can experience real pain from culture shock; it is also an opportunity for redefining one’s life objectives. It is a great opportunity for leaning and acquiring new perspectives. Culture shock can make one develop a better understanding of oneself and stimulate personal creativity.
Sadness, loneliness, melancholy
Preoccupation with health
Aches, pains, and allergies
Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little
Changes in temperament, depression, feeling vulnerable, feeling powerless Anger, irritability, resentment, 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 Unable to solve simple problems
Lack of confidence
Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
Developing stereotypes about the new culture
Developing obsessions such as over-cleanliness
Longing for family
Feelings of being lost, overlooked, exploited or abused
Stages of Culture Shock
Culture shock has many stages. Each stage can be ongoing or appear only at certain times. The first stage is the incubation stage. In this first stage, the new arrival may feel euphoric and be pleased by all of the new things encountered. This time is called the “honeymoon” stage, as everything encountered is new and exciting.
Afterwards, the second stage presents itself. A person may encounter some difficult times and crises in daily life. For example, communication difficulties may occur such as not being understood. In this stage, there may be feelings of discontent, impatience, anger, sadness, and feeling incompetence.
This happens when a person is trying to adapt to a new culture that is very different from the culture of origin. Transition between the old methods and those of the new country is a difficult process and takes time to complete. During the transition, there can be strong feelings of dissatisfaction.
The third stage is characterized by gaining some understanding of the new
culture. A new feeling of pleasure and sense of humor may be experienced. One may start to feel a certain psychological balance. The new arrival may not feel as lost and starts to have a feeling of direction. The individual is more familiar with the environment and wants to belong. This initiates an evaluation of the old ways versus those of the new.
In the fourth stage, the person realizes that the new culture has good and bad things to offer. This stage can be one of double integration or triple integration depending on the number of cultures that the person has to process. This integration is accompanied by a more solid feeling of belonging. The person starts to define him/herself and establish goals for living.
The fifth stage is the stage that is called the “re-entry shock.” This occurs when a return to the country of origin is made. One may find that things are no longer the same. For example, some of the newly acquired customs are not in use in the old culture.
These stages are present at different times and each person has their own way of reacting in the stages of culture shock. As a consequence, some stages will be longer and more difficult than others. Many factors contribute to the duration and effects of culture shock. For example, the individual’s state of mental health, type of personality, previous experiences, socio-economic conditions, familiarity with the language, family and/or social support systems, and level of education.
How to Fight Culture Shock
The majority of individuals and families that immigrate from other countries have the ability to positively confront the obstacles of a new environment. Some ways to combat stress produced by culture shock are: Develop a hobby
Don’t forget the good things you already have!
Remember, there are always resources that you can use
Be patient, the act of immigrating is a process of adaptation to new situations. It is going to take time Learn to be constructive. If you encounter an unfavorable environment, don’t put yourself in that position again. Be easy on yourself. Don’t try too hard.
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 are proven to be very positive for people who are passing through periods of stress Maintain contact with your ethnic group. This will give you a feeling of belonging and you will reduce your feelings of loneliness and alienation Maintain contact with the new culture.
Learn the language. Volunteer in community activities that allow you to practice the language that you are learning. This will help you feel less stress about language and useful at the same time. Allow yourself to feel sad about the things that you have left behind: your family, your friends, etc. Recognize the sorrow of leaving your old country.
Accept the new country. Focus your power on getting through the transition. Pay attention to relationships with your family and at work. They will serve as support for you in difficult times. Establish simple goals and evaluate your progress.
Find ways to live with the things that don’t satisfy you 100%. Maintain confidence in yourself. Follow your ambitions and continue your plans for the future. If you feel stressed, look for help. There is always someone or some service available to help you.
What Is It?
Culture shock isn’t a clinical term or medical condition. It’s simply a common way to describe the confusing and nervous feelings a person may have after leaving a familiar culture to live in a new and different culture. When you move to a new place, you’re bound to face a lot of changes. That can be exciting and stimulating, but it can also be overwhelming. You may feel sad, anxious, frustrated, and want to go home. It’s natural to have difficulty adjusting to a new culture.
People from other cultures (whom you’ll be hanging out with and going to school with) may have grown up with values and beliefs that differ from yours. Because of these differences, the things they talk about, the ways they express themselves, and the importance of various ideas may be very different from what you are used to. But the good news is that culture shock is temporary. What Causes Culture Shock?
To understand culture shock, it helps to understand what culture is. You may know that genes determine a big part of how you look and act. What you might not know is that your environment — your surroundings — has a big effect on your appearance and behavior as well. Your environment isn’t just the air you breathe and the food you eat, though; a big part of your environment is culture. Culture is made up of the common things that members of a community learn from family, friends, media, literature, and even strangers. These are the things that influence how theylook, act, and communicate.
Often, you don’t even know you’re learning these things because they become second-nature to you — for instance, the way you shake hands with someone when meeting them, when you eat your meals each day, the kind of things you find funny, or how you view religion. When you go to a new place, such as a new country or even a new city, you often enter a culture that is different from the one you left. Sometimes your culture and the new culture are similar. Other times, they can be very different, and even contradictory.
What might be perfectly normal in one culture — for instance, spending hours eating a meal with your family — might be unusual in a culture that values a more fast-paced lifestyle. The differences between cultures can make it very difficult to adjust to the new surroundings. You may encounter unfamiliar clothes, weather, and food as well as different people, schools, and values. You may find yourself struggling to do things in your new surroundings that were easy back home. Dealing with the differences can be very unsettling; those feelings are part adjusting to a new culture.
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