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Culture Shock

How to lessen the impact

  • Before leaving home, familiarise yourself with the new culture you'll soon be living in. Read books, talk to people who have been there, explore this website. Find out about the living conditions of local people, the political situation, the currency, climate and what the cuisine is like. Pick up a phrase book and start practicing counting and simple greetings.
  • Familiarise yourself with the phases of culture shock. This knowledge is like a forecast of rough weather ahead. You'll still have to weather the storm but you'll be better equipped to cope well.
  • If at all possible take the opportunity of a "Look, See" visit to your new country. Not only will you get a taste for the real estate and other facilities you may need, but you'll experience first hand the cultural contrasts you face.
  • When you do arrive at your overseas destination, arrange to spend at least 2 or 3 weeks in a hotel. This is the ideal time to orientate to your new territory, find out where your food can be bought, where the Post Office is, and what the tourist attractions are like. Organise your visa, ID card and drivers licence before your get caught up with settling into your new home or apartment.
  • Talk to someone about how you feel. Whether it's your partner, a colleague or your friend back home share your feelings about your new home, good and bad. If this doesn't help find a Cross-Cultural Counsellor who best understands what you're going through and how to get through it. Talking with others who have felt similar emotions helps normalise what you're experiencing, it's okay to feel that way and it will pass.

What Culture Shock looks like PDF Print E-mail

Everyone experiences the symptoms of culture shock somewhat differently. There are real physical & psychological impacts of arriving in a new culture. You will be afflicted by ailments without apparent origin, such as headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue and diarrhoea. All your senses are on full alert with new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Your metabolism may take months to adapt to a new climate. Even while you sleep the environment impacts on your senses, possibly influencing your dreams.

Why Culture Shock occurs PDF Print E-mail

Our personal identity is framed by the community we live in. Part of the way we see ourselves is in relation to other people, as belonging to this or that group. Your personal identity becomes somewhat threatened when your familiar community is replaced by foreign landscapes, people and lifestyles. People respond with varying degrees of anxiety and confusion. This is what is referred to as Culture Shock.

What you can do PDF Print E-mail

There are many different formal models for culture shock but all agree it is a defined process with predictable and manageable stages. Read through the table and refer to it again when you feel confused. Consider the strategies as advice from those who have gone before.


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