Living in a new culture can be exhilarating, rewarding, and stimulating. It can also be frustrating. It is one thing to tour a country, but it is quite another to live and function according to different norms. It is important to be open toward a new culture, to try to discard stereotypes, and to learn as much as possible about the culture before departure. If you educate yourself about the country you will be visiting, you will better understand and appreciate your new surroundings!
Even with preparation it is likely that you will experience "culture shock." Recent studies show that there are distinct stages of culture shock. Some of these stages include: awareness of the host culture and preparation, initial euphoria and excitement, irritability phase during acclimation, gradual adjustment, and adaptation to culture. Upon return to the United States, many students face "reverse culture shock."
There are some things you can do to minimize your cultural adjustment. Keep a sense of humor! Treat yourself to an occasional U.S. indulgence like a favorite food, or purchase a U.S. magazine or newspaper. Avoid other Americans who are overly negative or who complain a lot. Keep healthy. Above all, don't be afraid to try new activities!
If you are interested in learning more about the process of cultural adjustment, please visit: http://sis.pacific.edu/culture/welcome.htm. This website will take you through and help explain the issues surrounding culture shock. Included in this website are modules that you can complete prior to departure or upon re-entry. Below are additional resources for those interested in learning more about the cultures, languages and religions in their travel destinations and for learning more about cross-cultural awareness and adjusting to a new cultural environment.
Resources for Further Study
- Global Scholar online training (excellent resource!)
- Cross-Cultural Etiquette
- Agri-Food Trade Service: International Etiquette Internet Sourcebook
- University of the Pacific: Online Cultural Training Resource for Study Abroad
- DiversityAbroad: Culture Shock
- Glimpse: Student-written Culture Shock Articles
- University of North Texas: Information on Language, Culture, Media and Other References
- University of Northern Iowa: Language Resources
- Virtual Religions Index