Culture shock is a lesson

Huang Shuheng

Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country. However, it is not something we should avoid, instead it is a situation we have to go through and a lesson we should be ready to learn.

We can never avoid or be ready for culture shock. It is obvious that differences like language gaps, communication skills and social politeness exist between different countries and cultures. Since we were brought up in our own culture and we conclude the behavior norms in day-to-day life, we all have an assumption that everyone behaves more or less as we do (Storti). When we step into another country and find out that people do things in a totally different way, causing the way we used to behave to seem strange and wrong, it brings a feeling of disorientation and stress.

It seems that the culture shock can be solved since we already know the reason for it. However, by ignoring our assumptions and doing research, we can only make a slight difference, like playing on a chessboard. People can never know how to fight until they are standing on their own in a battle. There is still a big gap between learned norms and experience. If we take it as a lesson, however, it can be totally different. Although you can never expect a lesson to be as pleasurable as a honeymoon, it can be meaningful, full of expectation and encouraging.

First of all, in order to survive, we can learn how to act and react by observing and imitating the way people behave. Knowing small things such as the rules on a train, eye contact when people are talking and the way people greet and say goodbye can give us basic norms of how to behave appropriately, which can ease the stress and frustration brought by culture shock.

This brings us to the end of Storti’s step-by-step culture shock chart. But it should not be the end of this lesson. The second part of the lesson should be reflection on our own culture. Observing how different the things people do and the way they do them are from ours, we can tell that there is something we are relying on that we didn’t notice before. Then come the rules as well as the norms of our society.

Furthermore, if we explore the new culture deeper and make comparisons, we will learn about the cultural values embedded in people’s minds and the culture we are appealing to. This is not done to compare which culture is better, because nobody’s culture is better or worse than any other, since every culture is its own unique system for dealing with the question of being. Instead, it is a way to explore the diversity of human beings (Adler, 20).

“Time abroad is always an education” (Hochschild). Take culture shock as a lesson. Even though it remains shocking, it is a meaningful journey worth looking forward to and exploring.



Works Cited

Adler, Peter S. “The transitional experience: an alternative view of culture shock.” J. Humanistic Psychology. 1975, Vol. 15, 13-23. Print.

Hochschild, Adam. “The world outside.” Granta 84, 2003. Print.

Storti, Craig. “The art of crossing cultures.” Intercultural Press, 1990. Print.