Most people who travel to another country to work or study
for a significant period of time go through an adjustment period to the
new culture. The amount of disorientation one feels in the new situation
depends on one's own background and experiences. Although there are some
common traits to the culture shock syndrome, no two people will experience
it exactly the same or go through what are called the Stages of Cultural
Adjustment in the same order or with the same intensity. Sometimes the
transition to a new culture has an immediate impact, and sometimes it
is a delayed reaction.
the abrupt loss of the familiar, which leads to a sense of isolation and
diminished self-importance. Culture shock is brought on by the anxiety
that results from losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social
interaction. These signs include ways in which we orient ourselves
to the situations of daily life. When you first arrive in a new culture,
you feel a sense of excitement and anticipation. Later, you may feel that
the differences between your culture and those in the culture of the place you
are visiting are overwhelming and frustrating. It is important to remember
that this is a normal reaction to sudden changes and is something that
passes as you spend more time in a second culture. If you experience any
of the symptoms for an extended period of time, it is important to talk
to someone about it - friends, family, advisor. International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is always available to talk with you about your experience as you
adjust to life in the United States.
The effects of culture shock range from mild uneasiness
to temporary homesickness to acute unhappiness. Irritability, hyper-sensitivity,
and loss of perspective are common symptoms. Some other signs are loss
of appetite, lethargy, depression, insomnia, headaches, and digestive
Back to Part B: Pre-Arrival Index
- Be prepared: Be aware that it exists and that it will
probably affect you in one way or another.
- Know yourself: Clarify your own values and examine
your own assumptions. Your responses to situations and people in the
new culture will make more sense if you have a clear idea of what is
important to you personally.
- Be philosophical: Understand that this is a learning
process and that you will benefit from it.
- Be positive: Sometimes with a change of perspective, frustrating
circumstances can be humorous and endearing. Try not to be overly critical.
- Set goals and stay busy: Don't sit around being negative
and critical. Be adventurous, make plans and try new things.
- Avoid isolating yourself with people form the same cultural
background: Don't complain about your experience, try to find someone
who has gone through this experience and can offer you good advise and
stereotypes: Labeling such as stereotypes block realistic or fair minded
appraisal or your new surroundings and delay your emergence from the state
of culture shock.
- Keep a sense of humor. Hold on to your own personal sense
of humor, this will help you cope with possibly frustrating and confusing
situation. Often the first sign of recovery from culture shock is the
reappearance of one's sense of humor.
- Expect reverse culture shock when you return to your