Cultural Adjustment

Culture shock is neither very mysterious nor complicated. Nor is it often fatal. It generally occurs when the familiar signs and symbols of one's own culture disappear and are replaced by those of a new and unfamiliar culture. It is not necessary to move from one country to another to experience culture shock; a mild case can be brought on by a move as simple as from a rural to an urban setting within the context of one's own culture.

But whatever the source, the person experiencing the culture shock progresses through a number of fairly predictable stages. Any variance from one person's experience to another's is usually found in the length or severity of each stage. The stages described below are those postulated by Professor Kavero Oberg in his book Papers in Applied Anthropology.

The initial stage of culture shock is not unline a honeymoon; everything is new, exciting and intriguing. But, unfortunately, this is unrealistic state rarely lasts long. Soon reality arrives and problems begin.

The second stage is a difficult one for it is at this point that you must cope with very real, concrete issues. You must adapt yourself to living in an on-campus residence hall or find a place to live, figure out how to have the utilites connected and learn how to travel from your apartment to the campus via a largely non-existent public transportation system. These genuine and largely non-existent public transportation system. These genuine and sometimes overwhelming difficulties can result in a feeling of frustration and hostility towards the host country and its uncaring, unhelpful, insensitive citizens. It is tempting, sometimes comforting and even advisable for you to ally yourself with your fellow countrymen, speak your own language and eat familiar foods at this stage.

Some of the typical experiences at this stage are; excessive handwashing; excessive concern about your food and health; and exaggerated fear of being cheated; a refusal to learn or imporove your knowledge of the language of the host country; a variety of minor physical ailments; and frequently an overwhelming desire to go home. The third stage yields eventually to an acceptance of the host culture as an alternative way of living; different from your own, but one with which you have made necessary accommodations. You can now function efficiently if not always comfortably.

You will probably never be completely free of the strains imposed upon you by living in an unfamiliar culture. One of the best antidotes for this kind of strain is to get to know the people of the host country, their interestes, their values, and there activities. You can gain an understanding and appreciation of the host culture without becomming too assimilated and/or without giving up any of your own values or traditions. In fact, it is important for you to retain your own cultural identity. Ben open and curious and learn to share your culture with your new friends and acquaintances. You will both be greatly enriched by the sharing.