How to get over Culture Shock?

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The term “Culture shock” was first introduced by an anthropologist named “Kalvero Oberg”in 1958 to describe the anxiety when a person moves to a new environment. Culture shock is not a clinical term or medical condition, it is a common way to describe the confusing and nervous feelings a person may have after leaving a familiar culture and move to live in different culture. When you move to a new place it may be exciting, stimulating but you’re bound to face lot of changes.  It is natural to have difficulty in adjusting to the new environment, as the cultures, values, ideas, the way they  are expressed , conversations and beliefs differ from culture to culture. Due to these reasons a person can feel sad, anxious, frustrated etc. This feeling just sets in after the first few weeks of coming to new place. But culture shock is temporary.

 

The surroundings and the environment have great impact on your behavior and appearance. The environment is not just the air you breathe or food you eat but it is the culture which is made up of common things that a person learns from the family, friends, neighbors, strangers, media and literature. 

For example when you move to a new place it may be a different country, state or city you are exposed to different culture or it may be similar to yours. The culture shock can be described as physical and emotional discomfort faced by the individuals while moving to a different place. You may encounter unfamiliar clothes, weather, food, living style, language, different people, different religions, different values and customs but dealing with all these can be difficult at the starting but if you stay calm, patient, observe and learn and keep the things in perspective you can slowly learn to adapt yourself to the new culture or environment.

What are the symptoms of culture shock?

  • People experience culture shock in different ways: frustration, extreme sickness, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, feeling left out, lack of direction
  • the feeling of not knowing what to do, how to do things in new environment, not knowing what is appropriate and inappropriate, irritation over delays 
  • aches, pains, insomnia, changes in temperament 
  • loss of identity, unable to solve different problems, developing obsessions such as over cleanliness, desire to sleep too much or little
  • a feeling of helplessness 
  • dependence on long term residents of one’s own nationality
  • excessive fear of being cheated  
  • longing to be back home, to visit one's own  people. 

What are the different stages of culture shock?

First stage is the Honeymoon stage: It is the incubation stage where a new entrant may feel happy and pleased of all the new things encountered.



Second stage: A person may face difficulties regarding language, culture etc. There may be feelings of fear, anger, impatience, dissatisfaction, when a person is trying to adapt to new environment.



Third stage: It is characterized as gaining an understanding of new culture. The individual becomes more familiar to the environment and a new feeling of pleasure and sense of humor is experienced.



Fourth stage: In this stage the person realizes that new culture has both good and bad things to offer. The person starts to define himself and sets goals for living.



Fifth stage: This stage is called re-entry shock. This occurs when one returns to his own place and finds everything has changed. For example, the old culture you left is no longer followed as much  but has changed to something new. These stages are present at different times and each person reacts differently to these stages of cultural shock.

How to fight culture shock?

A person is not born with culture but only with the capacity to learn and use it.

  • Watch and learn from people around you. You can also get insight from television and movies and can learn the new language from books
  • Develop a hobby, learn to be constructive
  • Join a class if possible where there is more social contact with the locals. This way you form new friendships and get to know closely more about the new culture.
  •  But remember you don’t have to love everything and change everything about yourself all at once. All of your experiences that you have earned before you came to your new place will make you special. So never make new culture overpower your old culture.
  • People have a way of accepting their culture as the only way of doing things which is normal and understandable. The key to getting off with cultural shock is to understand the new culture and finding a balance between maintaining your own cultural identity and adapting to the new culture.

     
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