Anyone who has lived, worked or even travelled
extensively in another country, has lived through culture shock. Culture shock is the inevitable process that people go through and is a recognised symptom of interacting in an environment that is different – be it work, domestic or both. It’s a natural emotional reaction to the situation of being in a new (foreign) place and/or adapting to a new language. People used to moving around become more flexible and adaptable, therefore minimising any culture shock symptoms. So how can you recognise culture shock?

The online Oxford Dictionary defines culture shock as disorientation experienced when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life.  This manifests in symptoms that typically can include:

  • Feelings of sadness and loneliness
  • Heightened irritability
  • Feelings of anger, depression, vulnerability
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Constant complaints about the climate
  • Continual offering of excuses for staying indoors
  • Utopian ideas concerning one’s previous culture
  • Continuous concern about the purity of water and food
  • Fear of touching local people
  • Trying to hard to adapt by becoming obsessed with the new culture
  • Refusal to learn the language
  • Overwhelming sense of homesickness
  • Preoccupation about being robbed or cheated
  • Pressing desire to talk with people who “really make sense.”
  • Preoccupation with returning home
  • Questioning your decision to move to this place
Duane Elmer's Cross-Cultural Connections

Source: Duane Elmer's Cross-Cultural Connections (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002

Culture shock is unpredictable and very individual – you can suffer most of these symptoms or just a few. But if you find yourself wanting to cry  over simple things, then you are probably suffering from this condition. Left unchecked, it can lead people to turn to alcohol or drugs to ‘escape’. It can have even more serious consequences by developing into chronic depression.  Beware and be prepared. Get help if you need it.

Other articles related to culture shock can be found here:

What Is Culture Shock?

The Stages of Adjusting To A New Culture

Before You Go: What To Do Before You Leave

Overcoming Culture Shock

The Classic 5-Stage Culture Shock Model

Rhinesmith’s 10 Stages of Culture Shock

Collective Culture Shock

Advice For  Expats Moving to the Arab World

Tags: ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 13th, 2010 at 2:13 pm and is filed under culture shock & stuff, expat advice, General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.