Most people who move to another country will experience culture shock at some point. The greater the difference between your own country and the new one, the greater the shock. Sometimes you are not even aware of it that what you experience is a culture shock, but pretty much all people go through certain phases that are part of adjusting to a new environment.
The degree of "shock" also depends on such factors as length of study abroad, flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, prior experience abroad and his or her expectations
Everyone goes through three similar stages when adapting to a new culture. Some of us are able to go through the process quicker and with less stress, while others go through these stages and find it difficult to adjust.
Symptoms of culture shock can include: homesickness; depression; feeling lost and out of place; frustration; irritability; and fatigue. The following information may be helpful to understand the three phases that occur in culture shock:
Phase I: Honeymoon
During this initial period you feel excited to embark on your new journey. You are open to trying new things and exploring your host country.
Phase II: Rejection
- You may miss your usual ways of dealing with school, work, relationships, and everyday life.
- You may find yourself studying for hours, longer than your classmates and colleagues because of language differences. If you are trying to speak and listen to a new language every day and trying to understand how things are done, it may feel like an overwhelming effort.
- You may feel homesick and idealize your life back home, while being highly critical of life in your new community. Feeling frustrated, angry, anxious, or even depressed is not uncommon.
- You may experience minor health problems and/or disruptions in sleeping and eating patterns.
- Your motivation may diminish, and you may feel like withdrawing from your new friends. This is a natural reaction to living in a new culture.
- You may contemplate going home early before completing your program, degree or research.
- You may be angry at not finding what you had expected.
Phase II: Recovery
- It is important to understand that as time passes you will be better able to enjoy your new surroundings.
- Your feelings and attitudes about living in a new country may improve, but you may never get to the high level experienced during the first phase.
- You may become more relaxed, regain your self-confidence, and enjoy life in your new country. Major obstacles that occurred in the earlier phases, such as misunderstandings and mistakes, will be easily understood and resolved.
Ways to Reduce Feelings of Culture Shock "Plunge" into your host culture and wrestle with the differences.Keep an open mind; it is natural to have preconceived ideas and beliefs that come into question while abroad.Athletic activities like team sports or taking walks may be helpful.Get to know others at your host school or organization.Do not isolate yourself.Find a local person with whom you can discuss your frustrations and encounters.Learn as much as you can about your host culture.Maintain a support structure with others, particularly those going through the same experience. However, do not retreat into a clique" to avoid the discomfort of culture shock.Keep a journal. Record your impressions of new experiences and the transformations that are occurring within you.