Counseling and Wellness

Culture Shock

What is Culture Shock?

More Obvious Factors

  • Climate
  •  Food
  •  Language
  •  Dress
  •  Religion
  •  Education Systems
  •  Absence of Family and Close Ties

More Implicit Factors

  • Social Roles
  •  Rules of Behavior
  •  How students relate to teachers
  •  How people spend their leisure time
  •  How people resolve conflict
  •  How people express feelings and emotions meanings of hand, face, and body movements

Questions We Ask Ourselves

  • "Am I speaking properly?"
  • "Will I be a successful student?"
  • "Will I find friends?"
  • "Should I discuss my personal beliefs or my political opinions?"
  • "What does it mean when someone looks directly into my eyes?"
  • "Should I trust this friendly stranger? / will he or she understand?"

The Five Stages of Culture Shock

(taken from: Culture Shock: A Fish Out of Water, written and contributed by Elaine Addison Hannam University, Taejon, South Korea)

  1. Honey Moon Phase - this is when you expect to experience wonderful new things - it is a time of excitement and hope
  2. Rejection Phase - this is a time when problems arise that may result if feelings of sadness and anxiety
  3. Regression Phase - The word "regression" means moving backward, and in this phase of culture shock, people spend much of their time speaking their own language, watching videos from their home country, eating food from home. People often spend a great deal of time complaining about the host country/culture.
  4. Recovery Phase - this is a time when individuals become more comfortable with the language and also feel more comfortable with the customs of the host country: they can now move around without feelings of anxiety
  5. Reverse Cultural Shock - this stage occurs when you return home. You have been away for a long time, becoming comfortable with the habits and customs of a new lifestyle and you may find that you are no longer completely comfortable in your home country. Many things may have changed while you were away and it may take a little while to become at ease with the cues and signs and symbols of your home culture

Common Experience of Cultural Shock

  • Feeling isolated or alone
  • Sleeping too much or tiring easily
  • Finding it difficult to sleep
  • Suffering body pains, especially in the head, neck, back, and stomach
  • Wanting to return home
  • Feeling angry toward local people
  • Extreme homesickness
  • Withdrawal from people who are different from you
  • A new and intense feeling of loyalty to your own culture
  • Boredom
  • Compulsive eating or loss of appetite
  • Headaches, upset stomach
  • Unexplainable fits of crying
  • Difficulty concentrating

What Can We Do?

  • Simply understand that this is a normal experience
  • Keep in touch with home
  • Have familiar things around you that have personal meaning
  • Find a supplier or familiar food if you can
  • Exercise regularly
  • Make friends with international students whether from your own country or from others
  • Make American friends
  • Take advantage of all the help that is offered by your institution
  • Use the University or College Services, where there will be professional and experienced staff
  • Link with a community organization that will put you in touch with a familiar setting
  • Investigate the Student’s Union and its societies
  • Find someone to talk to who will listen uncritically and with understanding, rather than isolating yourself
  • Consider obtaining a host family
  • Be patient

Factors Important to Successful Intercultural Adjustments

  • Open mindedness
  • Sense of humor
  • Ability to cope with failure
  • Communicativeness
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Curiosity
  • Positive and realistic expectations
  • Tolerance for Differences and Ambiguity
  • Positive regards for others
  • A strong sense of self

Compiled by Jeeyoung Ahn