Explaining culture shock and how to deal with it
Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation, loneliness, insecurity or confusion that can occur when someone leaves his or her home country to live in a new culture. Culture shock may come with any of the following symptoms:
- Need for more sleep than normal
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Compulsive eating or loss of appetite
- Stereotyping of and hostility towards host nationals
- Lack of energy
For some people culture shock is brief and may not even be noticed. Many people, however, may have to deal with culture shock over several weeks or possibly months. So when you feel you experience some of the above symptoms, do not feel ashamed. It happens to nearly everyone who comes to live in a foreign culture (it certainly happened to me!).
It may seem to you that other people cope better than you do. However, this is usually due to one of two reasons.
- First, they might experience culture shock in a different period. Some people have most difficulties in the first couple of weeks, others only start to notice culture shock after a couple of months.
- Second, they might be experiencing culture shock at the same time as you do, but are too shy to talk about it with other people. Fortunately, there is one certainty with culture shock: it does not last forever! You will get used to your new surroundings and learn to appreciate them.
There are a lot of things you can do to cope with culture shock:
- First and foremost, know that your reactions are normal and that you can talk about them with other people.
- Stay in touch with your family and friends back home, but do not spend all your free time sending emails to them or reading your local newspapers.
- Make friends with other people. Although it will be comforting to have some friends from your home country, try to make friends with people from other countries as well. It will enrich your expatriate experience.
- Get some physical exercise. For many people sports is a good way to stop worrying.
- Find shops and restaurants that sell food you are used to at home.
- Get out of the house and do something. Look for some suggestions on the Living and working in Melbourne page.
And, most of all: enjoy yourself! You have the rare privilege of living in a foreign country and experiencing another culture - it will certainly be a memorable and valuable time in your life.
Copyright © 2020 Anne-Wil Harzing. All rights reserved. Page last modified on Tue 15 Sep 2020 15:13
Anne-Wil Harzing is Professor of International Management at Middlesex University, London and visiting professor of International Management at Tilburg University. She is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business, a select group of distinguished AIB members who are recognized for their outstanding contributions to the scholarly development of the field of international business. In addition to her academic duties, she also maintains the Journal Quality List and is the driving force behind the popular Publish or Perish software program.