Culture Shock

Culture shock happens to most people when they move abroad for an extended period of time.

Even if you are going somewhere that's not so far removed from your home country, you can still experience culture shock. It can happen even when you are spending only a short period abroad too.

What are the effects?

Effects can include:

  • Fits of anger over minor irritations
  • Frustration/embarrassment at not knowing how to behave
  • Feeling paranoid/isolated/vulnerable
  • A nostalgic idealisation of your home country
  • A desire to spend time with or depend upon others from your home country
  • An overwhelming sense of homesickness

The list above isn't comprehensive but it gives you a rough idea of how culture shock can affect you.

Knowing how culture shock can manifest itself helps to give you some perspective if and when it happens. It also helps you to know that the feelings will eventually pass.

Stages of Culture Shock

There are some common stages of culture shock that people go through whilst living abroad. They can vary from one person to another but they generally occur as follows:

Stages of Culture Shock

Hints and Tips

Here are some general hints and tips for dealing with culture shock:

  • Accept that culture shock is unavoidable and a normal part of the experience
  • Recognise the signs/stages to help you understand what's happening
  • Try to have some perspective as to why problems seem to be magnified
  • Remember that one of the reasons for moving abroad was to experience another culture
  • Be mindful that you are the outsider in an already established culture
  • Be respectful to the local people / customs/ traditions
  • Make an effort to integrate into the culture
  • Try not to spend too much time with people from your home country