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Dealing with Culture Shock

Thread: Dealing with Culture Shock

Tags: culture shock, medical school forum, medical school in barbados, medical school students, washington university of barbados, wubmed, wubmed review
  1. wubmed's Avatar

    wubmed said:

    Dealing with Culture Shock

    Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor said in his book, Primitive Culture that culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member by society.” Another defines it as “sets of human behavior passed down from one generation to the next.” However it is defined, culture is a powerful thread that knits a society together in one form or another. It is no wonder why people experience culture shock when they migrate or visit places outside of their norm.

    Culture shock is a feeling most expatriates experience as a result of being away from home. They can become disoriented, alienated, anxious, vulnerable and homesick as they try to adjust to their new environment. There are at least four to five stages of culture shock:

    1. The Honeymoon- Everything is new and exciting. The individual is enthusiastic about experiencing new things. They may even idolize the new culture.

    2. Frustration- This the beginning of culture shock. The realization “that everything that glitters is not gold.” The excitement is gone, and irritability sets in. The differences in the cultures are upsetting. For instance, transportation in the Caribbean can be confusing, even for locals. So, boarding the wrong bus, becoming lost with limited money is a dire situation. Asking for directions or help might be perplexing because of the language barrier. Each Caribbean island has a distinct accent and colloquial terms that can be difficult to understand. In certain instances, even cultural practices and personal habits of locals maybe offensive. Homesickness is at its worse during this stage. There is a longing for the familiar, for example, friends, family, foods, climate, etc.

    3. Gradual Adjustment- Overtime there is an acceptance of the new environment. In some cases, there is no other choice but to adapt. For instance, international students who have made a financial sacrifice to pursue their education, know that it would be impractical to return home. Thus, they adjust. As they approach their new surroundings with an open mind, feelings of alienation and homesickness soon dissipate.

    4. Biculturalism: You are completely acclimated. You understand your new environment including the people and the culture. To the point where home feels strange and foreign.

    5. Re-entry Shock– Home no longer feels like home. International students, those on work permits, etc, may feel out of sorts when they return home, after being away for long periods of time. These returning nationals often have to go through a similar process to readjust to their country. Personally, returning to my country from the U.S I missed the ease of ordering items online, no hassle business transactions and the sites.

    Listed are some solutions to help lessen the effects of culture shock:

    1. Try to be as informed as possible. Research your new surroundings before arriving. Learn about the climate, laws, transportation, currency, financial transactions, and locate supermarkets and banks in the area.

    2. Keep an open mind. Be rid of all preconceived notions. Instead, take a walk or go to a cultural event and socialize. Make new friends!

    3. Stay close to those at home. Social media and video chatting have made the world smaller with Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, etc. Those you love are only a click away.

    4. Bring things that remind you of home. For example, pictures of family and friends, a bunch of your favorite snacks or music.

    5. Try not to dwell on home. Remember the reasons why you left home and use them as inspiration.

    Even though culture shock is a frightening experience, with a few adjustments mentally and physically it does not last long. Experiencing another country and its culture is a wonderful adventure that on will not soon forget.

  2. Lil_Gail said:
    This is really helpful. Thank you for this!
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