Culture shock is is an experience that almost every immigrant will experience in one way or the other. The moment you make the choice of leaving the comfort of your home country to check what other countries have to offer, getting culture shock comes along. Not every two things in the new country will be the same as in your home country from where you come.
As sure as the sun rises, so many times you will be dumbfounded at how things are done in your new country. So many times you will try not to appear surprised and shocked just the same way as it will also be difficult to hold the expression.
With the world fast becoming a global village. You can easily eat dinner in Dubai, wake up in Amsterdam and attend a late night club in Kenya in a short one day. This is made so easy by the increasing number of commercial flights that connect airports with very short connection lags. But even as we become a global village, not so many people easily to compromise on their culture. There is this feeling that “my culture is the best” even among regular travellers who need to be more culturally aware.
As much as the world is fast becoming a global village, the reality of the matter is that cultures still retain a reasonable level of uniqueness. Even within the same country, communities still strongly protect their culture because it offers them some sense of identity and distinction.
Assuredly, whenever one enters a new community, culture shock creeps in, although sometimes without realizing it. The culture shock may manifest as never-ending surprises about how people do their thing, the feeling of being out of place, always keeping to oneself, and many more.
Causes of Culture Shock
Culture shock results from very different aspects of a community; be it dressing, dating and marriage, inter-age relationships, foods, social interactions, or anything in between. As a newcomer, sometimes even the most obvious things will appear new because there will always be a tinge of difference in how the host culture does it.
Ordinarily, any immigrant is cultured and socialized differently from wherever they come. Because culture is diverse as the people themselves, they evolve to adapt to the conditions within that setting. So, people tend to involuntarily think that their own culture is the ideal-meaning that any other way of life surprises.
How culture shock plays out
As already known to almost everyone, cultural differences are perverse. When you enter a new community, what strikes immediately is how the people there carry themselves and interact with each other.
Psychologists attempt to understand how culture shock plays out and have developed different stages for it. Virtually every person goes through one or more of these stages. Being aware makes one more prepared to deal with the shock and its effects.
The initial perception of the dominant culture of your host community largely determines how easy or difficult living among them will be. As a person, you already have what is considered your ideal culture but due to reality have to contend with something entirely new.
The difference in culture is likely to trigger self-conflict and desperation. Occasionally, people find themselves in situations where the host culture permits what the home culture prohibits. It is difficult to make choices in such situations. Whichever decision one makes, there is an inevitable mark of self-conflict that remains in the mind.
Fun example of cultural differences
Culture shock can sometimes play out in an interesting yet conflicting way. At an individual level, the differences in cultural values can tear one apart yet to the outsider observing, it could be amusing.
Take for example a case of a family that has moved to a liberal community from an overly conservative society where boy-girl relationship is highly detested. It would be pricking the consciousness of both the children and the parent to accept boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.
Even though one would really love to die protecting own culture in a new environment, it satisfies to accept that one will have to win eventually. Ideally, the present culture will over time nag and carry the day. Although the host culture will largely find its way through, there could be a few elements of the home culture that as an immigrant you will not easily let go. It is such tightly held cultural ideals that create the most culture shock.
Overcoming culture shock
There is no one silver bullet on how to cope with culture shock since people experience it differently too. Irrespective of how someone experiences culture shock, there could be a few personal steps that may help in at least reducing the amount of impact that self-conflict from it causes.
As a first, it is good to resolve in your mind that the host community will never adjust to accommodate you but vice versa. With this conscious understanding, you will deliberately take steps towards accepting the host culture for what it is since it is their old age way of doing things.
Secondly, you should stop being extremely sentimental and highly judgmental. Don’t be the kind of people who frown at virtually everything that does not look like what they are used to do at home. With this acceptance, you slowly get to understand why the host does what they do the way they do it.
Third, accept that you are biased and that there is no perfect culture, not even your own. As well-traveled people will tell you, every culture is a manifestation of human diversity. It is such differences that even make life interesting when one enters a new society.
Just for a moment, try to imagine entering every community and finding that the culture is copy-cut of your own culture at home. Would there be anything to be amazed about? Remember what makes life worthwhile is getting new experiences and it just this that every culture has to offer for you.
Embracing the host culture
As long as one has decided to move into a new society, it goes without saying to embrace the culture. Sometimes the culture may seem offensive at the start and most people drag their feet and feel disorientated. But it is actually therapeutic to accept to be part of the society otherwise you look like an outsider for years on end.
A few tricks to use in embracing the new culture are making new friends from within, avoiding retreating to groups of foreigners like you, going out to host cultural events more frequently, and being carefree.
At the very least, it is important to always remember that getting over culture shock is a process that is good for the newcomer and not the welcoming society. The host society will continue unaffected whether you accept their culture or dismiss it yet to you, the psychological burden may be too much to bear.
Although in some instances there will be temptations to retreat to own cultural ways, accept the backslide and try to re-emerge from it. It is actually a long-running process that may take months or a few years.