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 environment.
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 inappropriate.
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
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.
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
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.
to combat stress produced by culture shock:
the language of the host country
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
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
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.