Monday, 10 May 2010
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 for example to another country. When everything is different: language, customs, level of development we can suffer from the lack of direction, 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.
The symptoms (emotional and physical) apear after the first few weeks of coming to a new place. It can be:
* Sadness, loneliness, melancholy
* Preoccupation with health
* Aches, pains, and allergies
* Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little
* Changes in temperament, depression, feeling vulnerable, feeling powerless
* Anger, irritability, resentment, unwillingness to interact with others
* Identifying with the old culture or idealizing the old country
* Loss of identity
* Trying too hard to absorb everything in the new culture or country
* Unable to solve simple problems
* Lack of confidence
* Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
* Developing stereotypes about the new culture
* Developing obsessions such as over-cleanliness
* Longing for family
* Feelings of being lost, overlooked, exploited or abused
However, culture shock is not any medical term. It's just a common way to describe the confusing and nervous feelings a person may have after leaving a familiar culture.
Normally, we even don't realise how important for us is our culture. But if we have to face a culture which is different we can experience culture shock which has different stages:
The honeymoon stage
When you first arrive in a new culture, differences are intriguing and you may feel excited, stimulated and curious. At this stage you are still protected by the close memory of your home culture.
The distress (disintegration) stage
A little later, differences create an impact and you may feel confused, isolated or inadequate as cultural differences intrude and familiar supports (e.g. family or friends) are not immediately available.
Next you may reject the differences you encounter. You may feel angry or frustrated, or hostile to the new culture. At this stage you may be conscious mainly of how much you dislike it compared to home. Don't worry, as this is quite a healthy reaction. You are reconnecting with what you value about yourself and your own culture.
Differences and similarities are accepted. You may feel relaxed, confident, more like an "old hand" as you become more familiar with situations and feel well able to cope with new situations based on your growing experience.
Differences and similarities are valued and important. You may feel full of potential and able to trust yourself in all kinds of situations. Most situations become enjoyable and you are able to make choices according to your preferences and values.
(adapted from Robert L. Kohls: Survival Kit for Overseas Living)
Of course, the length and intensity of each stage varies from person to person. Many factors contribute to the duration and effects of culture shock. For example, the individual's state of mental health, type of personality, previous experiences, socio-economic conditions, familiarity with the language, family and/or social support systems, and level of education.
What do you think about it? Do you have some ideas how to fight culture shock?