Culture shock

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The term, culture shock, was introduced for the first time in 1958 to
describe the anxiety produced when a person moves to a completely new

This term expresses the feeling of not knowing what to do or how to do
things in a new environment, and not knowing what is appropriate or

We can describe culture shock as the physical and emotional discomfort
one suffers when coming to live in another country or a place different
from the place of origin.

It is an anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and
symbols of social intercourse. Often, the way that we lived before is
not accepted as or considered as normal in the new place.

Everything is different, and for example, we don’t speak the language,
don’t know when to shake hands and what to say when we meet people, when
and how to give tips, when to accept and when to refuse invitations,
when to take statements seriously and when not.

Like most ailments, culture shock has its symptoms and cure. The
symptoms of cultural shock can appear at different times.


· Sadness, loneliness, melancholy

· Preoccupation with health: aches, pains, and allergies

· Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little

· Anger, irritability, unwillingness to interact with others

· Lack of confidence

· Longing for family

· A desire to depend on long-term residents of one’s own nationality

Culture shock has several stages. The 1st stage is the incubation stage.
During the first few weeks most individuals are fascinated by the new.
This time is called the “honeymoon” stage, as everything encountered is
new and exciting. This stage may last from a few days or weeks to six
months, depending on the circumstances. Afterwards, the 2nd stage
presents itself. It is characterized by a hostile and aggressive
attitude towards the host country. This happens due to the difficulties
a person faces in daily life, such as communication or transportation

In this stage one criticizes the host country, its ways and the people.

The 3rd stage is characterized by gaining some understanding of the new
culture.  A new feeling of pleasure may be experienced and sense of
humor begins to exert itself.

Instead of criticizing, they now jokes about people around them and even
crack jokes about their own difficulties. They are now on the way to
recovery. In the 4th stage, the adjustment is complete. The visitor now
accepts the customs of the country as just another way of living. They
realize that the new culture has good and bad things to offer.

The feeling of anxiety is lost.

Some ways to combat stress produced by culture shock:

– Learn the language of the host country

– Develop a hobby

– Be positive

– Don’t forget the good things you already have!


Have you ever experienced culture shock? Describe your symptoms.

I experienced culture shock when I went to the USA in the 11th grade of
school at the age of 16. I was taken straight from my family, school and
town to a totally strange, different environment. I had to leave with an
American family and study in an American high school, where not a single
person spoke Russian.

First, I was surprised and fascinated by everything: I loved the food,
the way my host parents spent their leisure time, I enjoyed the house I
lived in, my school and classes were wonderful and interesting, I never
remembered to call my parents or e-mail my friends.

However, in a few weeks I became really depressed. I hated the way those
Americans pronounced words, I couldn’t stand the food, the fact that
every time they were free from work my host parents did the same things
drove me crazy; the way supermarkets looked and people behaved made me
sick. I started to call my parents and my sister every day; having done
my homework I e-mailed my friends every night. I was so much
concentrated on the negative emotions that the things and people
surrounding me gave me, that I stopped noticing the good things around
me and enjoying my life.

What advice do you have for people who suffer from culture shock?

First, I would recommend the person finding a hobby. Doing some
interesting thing could really distract one from the irritation,
negative emotions and depressive feeling.

Second, in such a situation what would really help is thinking
positively. One should at least try to notice the good things around
them and to enjoy their life. Very often we are in the foreign country
not for good and not even for a long time. Therefore, there’s too little
time to be upset and frustrated, you have to cherish every moment and
appreciate the opportunities that life gives you.

It is also very useful to try to get as much knowledge of the language
as one could from the very beginning. When you are fluent in the
language of the host country it’s a lot easier to get around by
yourself, to communicate with people, to share your feelings and
impressions with them and be understood.

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