Though culture shock is normally a temporary phase, it is
important to know there are things you can do to help so that some of these worrying effects can be minimised. Don’t feel “this isn’t going to happen to me”.  Culture shock can hit you whatever culture you come from and however experienced or well-travelled you are. Having information and understanding about culture shock is the first important step. The diagram below depicts the process we go through. However, by following the actions mentioned here you will help lessen the stress of culture shock…

  • Simply understanding that this is a normal experience may in itself be helpful.
  • Keep in touch with home
  • Focus on what you can control. When we are suffering from culture shock, we usually feel out of control. So, don’t spend energy on things you cannot change.
  • Don’t invest major energy in minor problems. We make “mountains out of molehills” even more quickly in cross-cultural situations than we do in our own culture.
  • Tackle major stressors head on. Don’t avoid things.
  • Ask for help. Create a wide support network as quickly as you can in your target culture. This can include expatriates like yourself as well as people of the local culture.
  • Write it down. Record your thoughts and frustrations in a journal. This will give you a healthy outlet for expressing your feelings.
  • Compare and Contrast. Learn about the differences between the cultures by comparing and contrasting so you can articulate them. Then see what lessons you can learn and what conclusions can you draw. Is your own culture more individualistic and initiative-taking; proactive? Do you find the Arab culture more collectivist and fatalistic; reactive?
  • Ask questions. Learn about how the Arabs think of people form your country – the more you learn about yourself the more you can understand how to understand others.
  • Read up on cross-cultural theories. Finally, if you are interested, seek out information about how to analyse cultures – there’s a whole science about it – it’s fascinating!
Duane Elmer's Cross-Cultural Connections

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

Notice that a positive attitude and making the right choices will help you develop rapport and understanding – then you will be able to straddle both your new and your own culture easily.

Expat advice on various countries can be found 
on this expert site:

My 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


This entry was posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 at 9:14 am 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.

3 Responses to “ Overcoming Culture Shock ”

  1. Karen says:

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  2. Hi Deborah (Dr. Swallow),
    Loved this post because it heightens the awareness of intercultural differences and also how to adapt. (I will put your post on Twitter.)

    Interestingly, you don’t have to travel to experience culture shock. Most everyone working via the Internet is interacting with customers from other cultures every single day.

    Adapting is even harder when you aren’t there to pick up on subtler signals and influences from those around you.

    Right here in the USA, there are vast differences among customers in different regions of America. Here’s a post that expands on that even more.

    Best wishes for your continued success and all of those you help with your intercultural programs.
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

  3. Hi Kate,
    Many thanks for your kind comment. You are so right – even moving from one firm to another in the same town is enough to encounter culture shock. Whether you’re moving form a ‘corporate culture’ to a smaller, entrepreneurial business or from a local government post to being an employee in a really hard hitting sales company can really challenge you. Thanks for the interesting link.