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CULTURE SHOCK: WHAT, WHY AND HOW?

- Soumya Sahu

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Culture Shock is 'a feeling of confusion felt by someone visiting a country or place that they do not know.' Even though the dictionary meaning of the term sounds pretty simple, culture shock is anything but. It is a daunting feeling that an individual experiences at a faraway land, which may or may not make one second guess the decisions taken. But on the flip side, it can also be argued that culture shock is a natural way of adapting to brand new cultures, and steadily accepting the differences between them.



Let us consider a situation - As an Indian, you have moved to London for the very first time. From the moment you land at the Heathrow, you feel a wave of bone chilling cold piercing your body. Thereafter, you observe the accent of the people and discover the dissimilarity in the regular monetary transaction system. Even things that are very common to people seem a lot more complicated and out of reach. In such circumstances, it is natural for a human to feel overwhelmed, homesick and lonely. Hence, culture shock can be due to the differences in language, food, weather, societal standards, attitude and lifestyle among others.


According to research, people who experience culture shock usually go through four phases:-

  • The Honeymoon Phase

This phase is one of excitement and thrill because people are stimulated with the feelings of a new adventure. Generally, it happens with travellers who are on a short-span vacation.

  • The Frustration Phase

Once the thrill of a novel adventure wears off, an individual starts to feel exasperated as the differences set in which leads to misunderstanding and fatigue. This stage is where one feels absolutely out of place and horribly homesick.

  • The Adaptation Phase

Slowly but steadily, people start understanding the culture and the urge to withdraw vanishes. Even though they are not aware of the nuances, they feel a sense of familiarity with their surroundings which puts them at ease.

  • The Acceptance Phase

The last phase is the recovery stage where an individual accepts the differences, improving his attitude and behaviour towards a foreign culture. People become happier, are able to make the most of the experiences and start feeling at home.


Now that we have understood the 'What' and 'Why' of culture shocks, there are a myriad ways to overcome it, some of which are:-

  1. Research well about the culture of the place that you are going to - may it be for a vacation or on a long-term commitment.

  2. Stay open-minded and embrace the subtleties of a different culture.

  3. Keep a positive attitude and try to connect with the locals, without being disrespectful of their personal space. It is essential to understand that your best guide in a far-off land is one who belongs to the land.

  4. Do not compare your native culture with the foreign culture. It will do you no good and make you feel more detached.

  5. Build valuable friendships and engage in feel-good activities that help you feel connected.

There are many developments that have taken place in this sphere and it might interest you to know about Reverse Culture Shock which happens when an individual feels a shock when he goes back home as the latter is not the same as one recalls. Invasion Shock is yet another kind of shock where the locals feel overwhelmed and endangered because of tourists appearing in large numbers.


As netizens of the twenty-first century, we are on the cusp of a cultural diffusion due to improved purchasing power, more resources and better lifestyle, giving rise to more and more diversity. So, even if we feel a little out of place somewhere out there, we mustn't allow it to wash over and stop us from living the best life that we have imagined for ourselves.

We know and understand that the application process can be overwhelming; that's why we are here for you. The study abroad experts at Hello Study Global are there for you every step of the way. From the preparations for entrance exams to college applications, we will guide you to success.


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