Even if you’ve planned and prepared for it, leaving home and traveling to study in a new nation can be a stressful experience. Realizing that your experience of culture shock is normal can be comforting because so many people are surprised by its effects.
What is Cultural Shock?
The term “culture shock” is used to describe the emotional impact of switching from one culture to another. People like culture shock, making new friends, and adapting to a new country’s norms all factor in. Also included is the shock of being cut off from your loved people, friends, coworkers, and mentors — the people you turn to in times of doubt and the people of your strength and direction.
Factors that can contribute to culture shock
Climate: The wet and windy conditions common in the Pacific Northwest can have a significant psychological impact on many students. Especially in the winter, the grayness and moisture may be hard to adjust to.
Language: Expending mental energy on listening and speaking in a foreign language is frustrating. Some students from other countries have reading keeping up with the pace of the class and understanding the readings and lectures. People tend to speak quickly, and you can feel awkward asking them to repeat themselves. If English is not your native language, you might long to communicate in your native language.
Social roles: There’s a chance that people’s actions in social situations will baffle, surprise, or even insult you. It’s possible, for instance, that people give off an impression of being aloof, icy, or perpetually harried. It’s also surprised to witness couples kissing and holding hands without expecting to. As well as disparities in social interaction and relationships between people of the same sex, you may experience a different level of formality or informality in your relationships with men and women.
‘Rules’ of behavior: In addition to the sensory experiences that greet you upon arrival, every culture also has unspoken rules that govern the way its people interact with one another. These are less evident, but you will likely run into them eventually, and the effect can be disorienting once again. In terms of prioritization, task distribution, and timekeeping, for time, people will have their own unique approaches. Time management skills are essential in the workplace and in the classroom. Attend all lectures, classes, and meetings with faculty and time at the designated times. Do your best to let people know ahead of time if you’re going to be late for a meeting.
Values: People from different cultures may have very different worldviews from your own, which may take some time to realize if you only focus on the outward manifestations of culture (e.g., food, dress, conduct). A culture’s foundation rests on its set of ingrained values, conventions, assumptions, and beliefs. Most of us take our fundamental values and views for granted, assuming that everyone shares them. Therefore, it can be shocking and even upsetting to discover that others do not share some of your most fundamental notions. Hold off on making snap judgments until you have a firm grasp of a culture’s underlying assumptions and norms. Examine how something is said or done by another person fits within the cultural standards of that person’s own country. You’ll gain insight into other people’s perspectives on your actions and how to interpret theirs. Once you learn about both cultures, you can discover something about both that you enjoy and things that you don’t.
Relationship Stress: Remember that the strain of the adjustment can lead to misunderstandings in your relationship if your spouse or partner has joined you in the United States. Your partner may have an extremely challenging time adapting to the new culture. Since he or she is now living in your culture but originally from another, your partner may be experiencing profound feelings of loneliness. The language barrier can make even the simplest of chores stressful. It may be more challenging for them to establish new acquaintances, and they may be less likely to have access to opportunities to engage in productive, meaningful activity like getting a degree.
Also, Check: How Challenging Do You Find Studying Abroad?
Please visit the Counseling Center if you are finding the demands of cultural adjustment to be too much and would like to discuss options for improving your quality of life during this time of change. The opportunity to chat with you and meet about your experiences adapting to culture at UW would be really appreciated. Counseling can assist international students adjust to their new environment, develop strategies for making friends, and find emotional and social support at this time of significant change in their lives.