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What is Culture Shock?


All international students will feel culture shock at some point and to varying degrees. They travel to other countries hoping to expand their academic knowledge and their knowledge of the world. Some international students might become overwhelmed with adjusting to even seemingly mild cultural differences, while others may hide their discomfort and attempt to blend in, leading to continued confusion.
The Symptoms of Cultural Shock
Many different characteristics affect how a particular individual experiences culture shock. The further the cultural distance between the home culture and the culture of the host country, the more likely it is that an individual will feel discomfort and difficulty in social interactions. An individual’s personality plays a role in how they react to new experiences and the extent to which they are willing to put themselves in awkward situations to learn the new social rules. According to one research (Shu, McAbee, and Ayman, 2016) individuals with personality traits such as extroversion and conscientiousness are likely to adjust more easily to new cultures.
The symptoms of culture shock are quite varied and can be easily misunderstood or even overlooked because they are similar to reactions that can occur in everyday life. Common symptoms could include:
  • Extreme homesickness
  • Feelings of helplessness/dependency
  • Disorientation and isolation
  • Depression and sadness
  • Hyper-irritability, may include inappropriate anger and hostility
  • Sleep and eating disturbances (too little or too much)
  • Excessive critical reactions to host culture/stereotyping
  • Hypochondria
  • Excessive drinking
  • Recreational drug dependency
  • Extreme concerns over sanitation, safety (even paranoia), and being taken advantage of
  • Loss of focus and ability to complete tasks


Stages of Cultural Shock

The term Cultural Shock was first named by an anthropologist, Kalervo Oberg, in 1960, who described it as 'precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse'. The term Culture Shock, in 1954, was to describe the anxiety felt by individuals living in a new culture.


Oberg’s anthropological discussion of culture shock identified 4 stages of cultural adjustment that describe the process that people go through when they are adapting to a new cultural environment :


The Honeymoon Stage

This stage is an exciting time when individuals explore new cultures, but involvement in the new culture is superficial and tourist-like. Individuals are very positive, curious and anticipate new experience.


The Culture Shock Stage

Irritation and frustration caused by the differences between the home culture and new culture.


The Gradual Adjustment Stage

Individuals begin to learn more about and understand their host culture. Develop a more balance and objective view of experiences.


The Adaptation Stage

Eventually, most individuals who spend a considerable length of time in a new culture will reach the stage of acceptance and adaptation. No longer negatively affected by differences in culture and can participate in social interactions without difficulty. Individuals might feel a new sense of belonging and sensitivity to the host culture.


7 Dimensions of Health & Wellness

Below advice could probably relate to any condition might occur at any moment:


       1. Emotional Wellness - Taking care of your mind

       2. Physical Wellness - Taking care of your body

       3. Academic & Career Wellness - Taking care of your future goals
       4. Social & Culture Wellness - Taking care of your relationship and society
       5. Spiritual Wellness - Taking care of your values and beliefs
       6. Financial Wellness - Taking care of your finances
       7. Environmental Wellness - Taking care of what’s around you

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