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What is Culture Shock? Its Symptoms and Causes

Culture Shock

In this article, I’m going to talk about one of the struggles that Expats have to overcome during the very first months after arriving the new destination: The famous “Culture Shock”.

What is Culture Shock?

People and professionals use this definition to describe a group of feelings a person experience when leaving a familiar culture to be part of a different one. These feelings are confusion, stress and disorientation among others.

Leaving the culture of our own means confronting many challenges. Some of the values, social norms, and traditions in the new country or city, might be very different from beliefs about “how things should be” in the place where you grew up.

People carry a certain background and personal experiences. This sort of “emotional suitcase” they take with them, will shape the way they’ll perceive the new environment and eventually, how they’ll get adjusted.

During the process of adaptation people will have to deal with the emotional effect of leaving “home” and everything related to it: Family, friends, food, social norms, beliefs, values, music, etc. At the same time, they will feel the pressure to “fit in” and get adapted to the new culture.

Which are the symptoms of Culture Shock?

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Extreme homesickness.
  • Difficulty to accomplish daily activities.
  • Social anxiety, which leads to avoiding people.
  • Physical pain and sleep difficulties.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Significant nervousness or exhaustion for no apparent reason.

Causes of Culture Shock

Some of the situations that might cause Cultural shock are:

  • People tend to use their own culture as standard to interpret and judge the new culture, leading the person to behave mistakenly.
  • Differences in the system of thought. For instance, in the Western world the way of thinking is analytical while on the East of Asian is more holistic.
  • Differences in the system of rewards and punishment. Behaviors that were positively reinforced in the home country would be punished in the foreign country.
  • The values from both countries are not the same, and they might even be conflicting For example, while in the western world the woman has equal status as men do, in some countries of the middle east, women don’t have the same opportunities or recognition than men do.
  • Language barrier, the inability to communicate with the locals.

The “secret” is to realize you are going through culture shock, own it and do your best to overcome it. You need to keep in mind that it can be a hard at moments. If you feel you cannot deal with it, there are no reasons why you have to go through it alone, seek help!

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