Culture Shock

Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation, loneliness, insecurity or surprise that can occur when a person has to operate within an entirely different cultural or social environment, such as a foreign country. While culture shock varies in length from days to possibly months, students have the ability to mitigate culture shock by first understanding the process.

Stages of Culture Shock

There are several stages to culture shock. Students may experience some, all, or none of these stages depending on their personalities. Experiencing any level of culture shock is normal.

  • Pre-Departure: In the midst of packing and researching your host country, you feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness about your time abroad.
  • Honeymoon: Upon arriving in your host country, your excitement is through the roof! From taking photos to waiting for a bus, every moment seems like a thrilling adventure.  
  • Conflict: Several days or weeks into your international experience, you feel a sense of isolation and frustration with everyday tasks and differences between your home country and the host culture.
  • Adjustment: As your feelings of irritability subside, your host country begins to feel comfortable and you become oriented in your new way of life.
  • Re-Entry: Upon your return to the U.S., readjusting to home life may seem difficult.  You find that not only have you changed but your surroundings have changed as well.

General Reactions

The following are some common reactions to culture shock:

  • The Critic: This student not only criticizes everything but also harps on the terrible nature of the entire trip.
  • The Native: This student speaks very highly of her host country and wishes to blend in with the natives.
  • The Fugitive: This student retracts from social interaction due to disappointment and homesickness.
  • The Chauvinist: This student constantly speaks of her home country’s superiority to anyone who will listen.

Additional Options for Coping with Culture Chock