What is a Culture Shock and How to Successfully Deal With It

What is a Culture Shock
This article explains in detail the term, culture shock, its various stages, and its impact on people.
SocialMettle Staff
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2017
Culture shock can be defined as a psychological condition which a person experiences when exposed to a completely different set of people, whose values and behavior are in stark contrast to what he or she has been brought up to believe as right. Thus, it can be experienced by anybody who is in a new country or has shifted from a town or village to a city.

Reverse culture shock, on the other hand, is a condition faced by people who return to their home country after having stayed in another place for a long time. The symptoms are usually similar, however, the affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock.

Stages

Honeymoon Stage
This is a period marked by new discoveries. In this stage, the individual comes across new habits of the people, new kinds of foods, a new pace of living, etc. In most instances, the person is amazed and excited to discover the new culture.

Negotiation Stage
After the initial phase is over, the individual starts feeling left out, isolated, and confused due to his inability to mingle with others. Not having a support system such as friends and family close by, further aggravates the feeling of inadequacy and isolation. The individual, at this stage, starts to reject whatever the new culture has to offer. He may react angrily or become frustrated, which is considered very normal at this stage.

Adjustment Stage
In the adjustment stage, an individual starts finding his own place in the new environment. He starts adapting to some of the ways of the new culture and is now in a better position to deal with the situation. He begins to understand the culture a bit more, so his negative reactions seen in the previous stage, start to diminish.

Mastery Stage
In the final stage, the individual imbibes some of the values of the new culture and retains a few of the old ones. He incorporates all those qualities which he feels will help him live comfortably at the new place.

Symptoms

To give an example, Asians such as Indians and Chinese, face a huge culture shock when they move to America to work here. These people, with a different set of values, are initially not accustomed to the way of living in the US and find it difficult to cope with a new environment. They may experience some of the symptoms such as:
  • homesickness
  • withdrawing from others
  • boredom
  • stress
  • irritation and disorientation
  • excessive sleep
  • alcoholism
  • deterioration in health
  • sadness
  • loss of identity
  • loss of confidence
  • vulnerability
How to Deal with It

An individual, in a new place and circumstances, can do a number of things to adjust well to the new environment. The most important thing needed is patience, as this process takes time. The next thing one should do is to develop a hobby or interest that will be engaging. Exercise would help to keep the body in shape to adjust to the new climate and surroundings.

The individual should try to learn as much as he can about the new culture, language, and customs. Taking up a course on the local language would help to break the communication barrier. One can also join a volunteer organization to learn more about the community. Lastly, staying in touch with people from his home country who have shifted residence, talking with family and friends on a regular basis, are some other things that will help the person to deal with this situation.

The key to managing this condition is to be receptive to change and taking the right steps with a positive outlook.
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