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What does culture shock mean to you?
I think culture shock means different things to different people.
And, that is OK! We all experience life differently, so this is natural. Some of us may refuse to call it ‘culture shock’ because it is just ‘a part of life’. Some of us may not like the term ‘culture shock,’ because as with any life transition- moving to another city or country is just ‘par for the course’ and we would naturally face some challenges in adapting to any new environment.
Some of us may further argue that even if we never moved from our village or town or city, we would face ‘culture shock’ but not really call it that as culture shock is generally thought of as happening when moving to another place altogether.
However, as we move through life- from childhood to adulthood, from being single, to being married, to being a parent, to being a career-oriented person, to being retired, to being an in-law, to being retired, widowed and the multitude of other roles we play in our life- moving through all roles is a life transition. Each life role has a ‘culture’ associated with it- a set of rules, a lifestyle, a way of behaving that we have to adjust to. Hence, transitioning through the roles of life while moving abroad, moving to another city, or staying planted in one place one’s whole life can still be considered cultural change- and bring about the same ups and downs that ‘culture shock’ can.
This is why, I have always believed that culture shock doesn’t end. Many articles out there on culture shock present a bell curve, with a start point and an end point. As though once you finish the bell curve, you understand all you need to know about a culture, then it’s all smooth sailing from there and you won’t face any challenges henceforth. Us Westerners are comfortable with linear thinking, but Easterners often understand more circular logic. This is what I am trying to present here.
I believe culture shock can happen whether we move abroad or stay in our own country- but happens as we experience natural life transitions. And in experiencing both transitions and ‘culture shock’ the stages of adaptation are very similar in my experience.
Questions to reflect on:
What are the roles you have played in your life?
How has the transition between roles affected you?
Do you think your roles would be experienced differently if you lived in your ‘hometown’ your whole life as compared to moving to another city or country?
What are some challenges you have faced in transitioning to roles in your life?
Do you attribute them to life’s “natural course” or “culture shock” or both, or something else?
What are your thoughts? I am happy to hear about your experiences.
This cross-cultural training was created by Jennifer Kumar, expat and cross-cultural coach at Authentic Journeys. If you'd like to explore issues of culture shock, culture adjustment or cross-cultural relationships in your life, I am happy to meet with you to discuss and sort out your experiences in person, via Skype or phone. Contact me at email@example.com. Thank you.
More articles/slideshows/podcasts on Cultural Etiquette and Tips.
References on Culture Shock from Alaivani (my website):
An American in Ecuador
Cross Cultural Experiences – Keeping it in Context
Educational Entrepreneurship: The First American To Matriculate at Madras Christian College
Honeymoon with Husband and his Family: Experiences in the Life of an Extended Family
How To Choose the Right Path in Studying or Living Abroad (Questioning how much cultural change can you handle?)
Integrating Two Worlds: Life in America with an Indian Twist
Is Mine a Case of Reverse Culture Shock?
This article has been published in the book Culture Shock.
Japan Through American Eyes: Joe Conley
On The Move: How have you absorbed Culture Shock?
Preparing for a trip to India to visit Family
Test Taking Trials and Tribulations in India
Yearning to Return (Why I want to go back to India.)
Relearning How to Communicate (Interactions in an Intercultural Family)
Thanks for reading. Thank you for spending your time on Alaivani.com.