Moving from a familiar environment to a different one often has a significant impact on a person. The initial one is often unpleasant. The common symptoms include nervousness, irritation and helplessness. However, culture shock is not a bad thing. Here is a highlight of its causes, benefits, and how to cope up.
Causes of Culture Shock
Moving to a different culture can be challenging in different ways. Differences in food, climate, language, dress code, etiquette, learning styles and behaviour are some of the common causes of discomfort. Being away from your support group, such as family, friends, colleagues, and teachers, also heighten the effect of the changes.
Phases of Culture Shock
Those who move to a different country or culture set up go through 6 phases of shock. They are;
- Preliminary stage: It occurs before leaving for the new destination. It involves mental preparation on what to expect and how to cope.
- Euphoria stage: It is what you feel when you arrive at the new country or place. For some reason, you fall in love with everything you see. However, this is short-lived as the realities of the change soon become apparent.
- Irritability stage: You start noticing the difference in culture, and everything seems wrong. Coping with the simple aspects of life like hailing a cab or buying grocery suddenly feels awkward and foreign. You may feel confused, lonely and lost.
- Gradual adjustment: Once you realise that life has to go on, you begin adjusting. You gradually filter out the cultural differences, and you learn to let go of your prejudices.
- Independent stage: After a while, you become used to the culture, having accepted its norms and learnt how it works. You may even feel a part of it.
- Re-entry shock: It is the shock you find when you go back home. It dawns on you how your values and perception have changed through your experience of a different culture. It can be the hardest phase.
Though it is uncomfortable for a period, experiencing new cultures is necessary for social and intellectual growth as it stimulates maturity. It helps you develop a well-rounded perspective of the world. Experiencing a different culture also boosts a person's problem-solving capability. Most importantly, it helps people appreciate their own cultural values.
Coping with Culture Shock
First, accept that it is reasonable to feel disoriented in a new environment. You can then deal with it by:
- Having items that remind you of home such as pictures of family members and friends
- Cooking foods that you are used to or eating in places that serve familiar meals
- Join a community that has similar values with you such as faith groups or other expats
- Remain healthy and physically fit
- Stay in touch with family and friends at home
- Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and try a new thing, talk to a new person, and learn something new every day.
Culture-shock is not an indication that you made a mistake or that you will not manage. It is normal and often unavoidable. You will develop essential skills that will help you in many ways today and in future.