The Oxford Dictionary defines culture shock as disorientation
experienced when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life
. Culture shock can be characterised by periods of frustration, adjustment, and even depression. Nearly everyone, regardless of maturity, disposition, previous experience abroad, or knowledge of the country in which they will be living, experiences some degree of culture shock when initially moving to a new country. Rather like the grieving process, there are stages that we go through…

What are the stages most people go through
in adjusting to a new culture?

When you move to a new country, everything is unfamiliar; weather, landscape, language, food, dress, social roles, values, customs and communication – basically, everything you’re used to is no longer there. You’ll find that the day unfolds differently, that business is conducted in a way that may be hard to understand, the stores are opened and closed at hours that you could never predict.

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?

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When working internationally, there are certain principles that are good to remember when things just don’t seem to be going right. The principle one is:

Don’t take things personally! This comes from personal experience…

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What is Culture?

1. Culture is the heartware of a nation/race/culture; its soul and what makes it tick

2. Culture reflects widely shared assumptions and beliefs about life

3. Culture is so embedded that most people do not and cannot analyse it

4. Culture is what is ‘normal’ around here

5. Culture is learned from our superiors and role models