Sunday, March 6, 2016

What is Culture shock?

Culture shock has been studied and defined by many different people over the years and it affects everyone differently.

Basically Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

There is also reverse culture shock. This is when an individual has successfully adjusted to the new social or cultural group, and then returns to his or her home country, or original social or cultural group.  This can be due to over-idealizing one’s home country or culture, or expecting that nothing has changed while they were away, when it actually has.

To better understand the signs and symptoms of culture shock, one must understand the four basic stages:

Honeymoon Period:
This is when you first arrive in the new location, and everything is new and exciting.
Crisis Period:
This is when your feelings of disillusionment culminate, and you begin to cope.
This is when you gradually adapt, and learn to behave like the local culture/social group.
Function effectively, and perform day to day tasks secondhand

The signs and symptoms of culture shock are: 
- homesickness
- stereotyping or feelings of hostility towards hosts
- excessive boredom
- feelings of isolation
- boredom
- withdrawal

The fact of the matter is that once you know about culture shock, you can also learn how to prevent culture shock. Here are five tips:

1. Learn about your new location first, be open-minded and willing to learn!

2. Maintain a positive sense of humour. The ability to laugh at your mistakes, and smile at people makes a world of difference in the eyes of your hosts, no matter which part of the world.

3. Know before you leave that moving or traveling somewhere different is challenging, and that it is normal to go through an adjustment period.

4. Do not withdraw. Look for positive people, travel around, take part in cultural and/or school events.

5. Take a part of home with you. Food, photos and music all help when going through a rough spot. Stay connected and keep in touch with family and friends through Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime.

Last but not least my personal advice would be to start a journal (or a blog) of the new things you come across every day and your reactions to your new home. Writing things down will help you keep them in perspective, and are funny to look back on!

One more tip: Never confuse your ability to speak the new language with your intelligence; it is easy to feel stupid and get down on yourself, but there is no reason to. It takes everyone some time to adjust and become comfortable with a new language.

And remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

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