When we move into a new cultural context, very different from the one(s) we are used to live in, and we have no knowledge of that context nor prior lived experiences in it, then we may experience culture shock. This experience causes high levels of stress for having to face the demands of living in a new culture, while sensing that we have not yet developed the necessary coping skills. This intercultural experience brings along a wide range of emotional reactions, included culture shock.
How do I know if I am going through culture shock?
The most common signs of culture shock are:
- Confusion/loss of identity
- Stomach aches/headaches
- Missing/idealising home country
- Feeling incompetent
- Loss of sense of humour
- Lack of confidence
- Rejection of the new culture
If you are living in new cultural surroundings and most of the signs described above resonate familiar to you, then you may be experiencing culture shock. I want to reassure you that on arrival to a completely new place, culture shock not only is predictable but inevitable. The other piece of good news is that this is a transitory experience and with time it will pass. If some time has passed and you are still experiencing with the same intensity most of the emotions described above, then you may want to consider booking a session with a professional expert in intercultural counselling. They can help you understand the (often unwritten) rules and how things are done in the new contexts and any cultural misunderstandings that may have provoked in you hurt feelings, anger and hostility. During the sessions you can explore your communication skills and develop effective strategies to cope with cultural difference, so that you can successfully overcome culture shock.
- Faina, A. M. (2006). La comunicazione interculturale. Il punto di vista psicologico sociale. Roma, Bari: Editori Laterza.
- Palmer, S. (2002) (ed). Multicultural counselling. London: SAGE Publications.
- Neuliep, J. W. (2009). Intercultural Communication. A Contextual Approach. London: Sage.