Culture Shock: What is it?
Culture shock is the disorientation that one feels when living in a foreign culture for a prolonged period of time.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Loss of sense of humor
Lack of energy disorders
Boredom – new climate, new food, pollution/air quality levels
Hostility towards locals
Each person has different symptoms of culture shock and most people will not have all of these symptoms. Culture shock is not fatal!
WHERE DOES CULTURE SHOCK COME FROM?
Mental Stress – language issues, learning new 'norms', watching your step. Examples include: speaking a foreign language, hearing others speak in a foreign language/accent, having to repeat everything and feeling foolish. Everything is different including the “simple things” like handling appliances, using the telephone and grocery shopping
PhysicalStress – new climate, new food, pollution and air quality levels. Examples include: different weather conditions, lack of favorite foods and living in a different time zone.
Psychological Stress – loss of family, loss of friends, loss of professional identity, loss of way-of-life, loss of self-esteem. Examples include: the accompanying spouse or partner may be left to handle the entire move-in to the new location and deal with acclimating the entire family without a familiar support system
WHAT CULTURE SHOCK IS NOT?
It is NOT being homesick
It is NOT the 'surprise feeling' you experience the first time you see someone eating, wearing or doing something you consider different or bizarre
STAGES OF CULTURE SHOCK: THE “ROLLER COASTER” OF EMOTIONS
Pre-Departure Reality sets in! People begin to see that the differences are real and they are not always easy to adjust to. Expats tend to miss seeing people and places back home. This is when specific symptoms may show up.
Honeymoon Period Very positive once you’ve arrived. Everything is new and exciting. It is a time to meet new people and go to new places. Expats tend to dwell on what is similar to “back home."
CultureShock Reality sets in! People begin to see that the differences are real and they are not always easy to adjust to. Expats tend to miss seeing people and places back home. This is when specific symptoms may show up.
Recovery and Adjustment The expat begins to accept his or her host community and culture. This can be a period of great learning and when it is a good time to strategize towards a meaningful pursuit.
Repatriation After living abroad for some time, some people are reluctant to go home. Home is expected to be the same and it isn’t! Repats are often disappointed with their friends and family upon re-integrating. They no longer feel “at home.” This is “reverse culture shock” and it can be as stressful, if not more stressful than culture shock.
STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH CULTURE SHOCK OR REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
Take care of yourself: get plenty of rest, eat healthy!
Use stress reduction techniques
Get lots of exercise
Get involved; join community groups or associations! Learn the local language
Get to know your new neighborhood
Enroll in a course
Learn or pursue a hobby
Plan family outings
Get out of the house
Keep your sense of humor
Ask for help when you need it!
A Moveable Marriage by Robin Pascoe, www.expatexpert.com
Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Redken, www.amazon.com
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