Overcoming culture shock

‘Culture shock’ describes a common reaction to moving to a new, often unfamiliar environment. Culture shock may involve anxiety, a feeling of loss of direction or purpose, and an uncertainty of how to do things and what is appropriate in the new cultural context.

Symptoms can be physical, psychological or both, including aches, pains, allergies and other illnesses; feeling melancholy, angry, irritable, bored; crying without reason; being preoccupied with health; suffering from insomnia, overeating, loss of appetite; feeling vulnerable or powerless, and so on.

The symptoms of cultural shock can appear at different times, but often cycle through stages described in the literature as honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and mastery. Sometimes, a fifth stage is included, namely the “re-entry shock” you may feel upon returning home. 

Although not all people experience culture shock, many report feeling a double reaction of surprise and disappointment in themselves, which further complicates the process of adjustment. Although one can experience real pain from culture shock, this transitional time can also be seen as an opportunity for redefining one’s values and objectives. Culture shock can help you develop a better understanding of yourself and stimulate personal creativity.

If you feel stressed, look for help.                   

More information and some pointers for getting through culture shock as painlessly as possible can be found on various sites on the internet; see, e.g. Guanipa, C. (1998). Culture Shock. (Retrieved August 2017, from web.mst.edu/~rossh/DiscussionGroup-Conversation/Culture_Shock.docx).

Where to get help and more information:

- Talk to your tutor.

- Talk to the psychologist – phone number 737 6211.

- Read about cross cultural conflict and adjustment. There are books and a lot of articles available on the internet (search “culture shock” in Google).