Understanding Culture Shock
Whenever someone travels overseas they are like “a fish out of water.” Unfamiliar with their surroundings, trying to find something to make them move and feel natural again. Like the fish, they are only accustomed to their own surrounding and do not know how to act in new situations. Our culture, composed of everything from climate, to history, to customs, to holidays, helps to shape our identity. Many of the cues of interpersonal communication (body language, words, facial expressions, tone of voice, idioms, slang) are different in different cultures. This is a leading factor as to why we feel so shocked when in a new place. We do not understand.
There are two important points to keep in mind when interacting or socializing with people form other cultures.
1) People, especially those who have never lived abroad, are often not conscious of the subjective cultural factors that determine the way they act and react.
2) To understand your experience, you will need to search for the underlying factors that shape your perceptions of events and people.
The term ‘culture shock’ could be misleading in that it implies that the problem relates to being shocked or overwhelmed when you enter a new culture. However, for many , the first days and weeks in a different country are new and exciting. Adaptation problems occur months later after the initial thrill has worn off. The term “culture fatigue” has actually been suggested as a more accurate description.
Five Stages of Culture Shock
Kalvero Oberg was one of the first writers to identify five distinct stages of culture shock. He found that all human beings experience the same feelings when they travel to or live in a different country or culture. He found that culture shock functions almost like a disease: it has a cause, symptoms, and a cure. The five stages are as follows:
1) The honeymoon phase
2) The rejection phase
3) The regression phase
4) The recovery phase
5) The reverse culture shock phase
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