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Culture Shock

Student with an animal
What Is Culture Shock?

It is the psychological disorientation that most people experience when adjusting to a new culture. Undergoing culture shock is a way of sensitizing you to another culture at a level that goes beyond the intellectual and the rational. Just as an athlete cannot get in shape without the pain of conditioning, you cannot fully appreciate cultural differences without the uncomfortable stages of psychological adjustment. Upon arrival, expect to go through an initial period of euphoria and excitement as you are overwhelmed by the thrill of being in a totally new and unusual environment. After a few weeks, the thrill wears off, and you may gradually realize that your old habits and routines are no longer relevant.

Signs of Culture Shock

  • Your initial thrill has worn off and you sometimes feel depressed or missing home.
  • You think that “your” way of doing things is right and “their” way is wrong.
  • You find yourself easily frustrated by local customs, rules, and behaviors.
  • Little problems seem like major crises.

How Can I Prepare For Culture Shock?

  • The human psyche is very flexible; with some effort you will soon find yourself making adjustments that enable you to make the most of your new environment.
  • Acknowledge that you will probably be vulnerable to at least some culture shock.
  • Mentally prepare to accept the discomfort and turn it to a learning experience.
  • Appreciate differences and keep things in perspective.
  • See culture shock as a chance to learn and grow! A sense of humor goes a long way.


Photo Credit:
Christine Tang, Biological Sciences, "When in Nara"