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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.

In your home community people interact according to quite precise social rules. When you meet a new person you make eye contact, smile and shake their right hand. If you blow your nose you'll use a tissue or handkerchief. These acceptable ways of behaving have been taught to you since infancy. And if the rules are broken there are known consequences. You also know how to make amends and have confidence that these compensating behaviours will work in regaining social acceptability.

In a new foreign city there are lots of rules you don't know and you're aware that those around you know all the rules. You have no way of knowing if others are going by their own rules, whether you are violating any rules and if so, what the consequences may be & how to compensate if required.

In a sense you are operating in the dark, making social faux pas without realising. You don't know what to expect of others & they expect unknown things of you, a distinct disadvantage giving rise to all sorts of social insecurities.

The thing to remember is that the appropriate behaviour can be learned. You will learn by observing and asking questions of locals as well as other expats. It may be hard at first to evaluate how well you are adapting but gradually your confidence will build.

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