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28 Examples of Culture Shock

 , November 20, 2018 updated on January 29, 2022
Culture shock is the feeling of being lost, challenged and stimulated with complete immersion in an unfamiliar culture. This is most strongly associated with international travel and immigration but can be triggered by other experiences and lifestyle changes such as a change in socioeconomic surroundings. Culture shock is viewed as a potentially enjoyable or positive thing that can be stressful but likely to build character, life experience and resilience. The following are illustrative examples of culture shock.
Inflated Expectations
Loss of Cues
Language Barrier
Information Overload
Dietary Changes
Provisioning Challenges
Honeymoon Period
Social Rejection
Social Acceptance
Descent into Hostility
Perspective Switch
Identity Crisis
Cultivation of Grit
Defeat of Assumptions
Host Stereotyping
Adjustment & Adaptation
New Perspectives
Host Dependency
Romanticizing of Home
Romanticizing of New Culture
Reverse Culture Shock
Inflated expectations is the tendency for an unfamiliar culture to be very different from what you expected. This can lead to disappointment and bitterness such that experienced travelers or those with high cultural competence learn to avoid or minimize expectations.
Loss of cues is a situation where you can't read people accurately due to a lack of shared culture in areas such as norms, language and body language.
Disorientation is an overwhelming feeling of being lost and incapable. This can be strangely enjoyable if you are comfortable with chaotic situations and uncertainty.
Information overload may occur as it takes you longer to understand things in an unfamiliar culture.
Provisioning challenges is a situation where securing basics such as water, food, housing and transportation is far more difficult for you in an unfamiliar environment.
The honeymoon period is the initial joy of being out of your element and surrounded by new culture. In this period you may not make any progress in fitting in but are still happy to be an outsider.
People may direct social rejection your way if you violate norms. This is how norms are enforced by culture. If you are able to conform to local norms, social acceptance becomes more likely.
Descent into hostility is when an individual becomes bitter and hostile as a reaction to difficulties, confusion and rejection. This is counterproductive but is perhaps a common emotional reaction that can be overcome.
Perspective switch is the realization that it's not the land that's foreign, it's you that's foreign. This tends to make you more sensitive to social rejection and can inspire a desire to adjust and adapt to the local culture.
You aren't the same person in another culture and this leads to an important identity crisis that inspires change. For example, if you are great at communicating in your native language, suddenly you are not able to communicate at all in an unfamiliar language. This greatly affects your social identity in a context where you are immersed in this language.
Cultivation of grit is the process of becoming tough enough to thrive in another culture. This is often just a decision to make it whatever the stress.
Defeat of assumptions is the process of challenging your preconceptions about a culture in order to have an open mind to experience the culture as it really exists.
As you realize your assumptions are wrong, you will develop new theories to try to understand the host culture. This can go too far whereby you begin to view members of the host culture as all the same when in fact they are individuals. This is known as host stereotyping.
Adjustment and adaptation is the process of changing your behavior to integrate into the host culture. For example, adhering to local norms and language acquisition.
Assimilation is when you completely adapt to the host culture to the extent that you largely lose your original culture.
Retreat is an avoidance of adaptation whereby an individual seeks to reconstruct their home culture in another place. For example, an American in China who spends most of their time at American chain restaurants and hotels that partially simulate American culture.
Cosmopolitanism is the ability to adopt positive aspects of a new culture without losing positive aspects of your original identity. For example, an American living in Japan who doesn't completely become Japanese but becomes American+Japanese bicultural in their thinking and abilities.
New perspectives is the transformation of thinking that results from cultural learning, particularly language acquisition. Language is a building block of thinking -- a new language always includes new concepts and relationships between concepts that can fundamentally extend your mental capacities.
Host dependency is where you rely on help from locals such that you lose elements of your independence and freedom. For example, living in a foreign country where you require help from locals to navigate processes such as getting an apartment.
Homesickness whereby you strongly desire to return to your home culture.
Romanticizing of home such that you gain new appreciation for your home culture and may view it in an exceedingly glowing and nostalgic light. Likewise, it is possible to fall in love with the new culture and romanticize it as well.
Reverse culture shock is difficulty returning to your home culture whereby you have changed and the home culture has changed while you have been gone. This can result in a strange situation where you feel alien in a culture that was once a familiar home.
Wonder is a compelling sense of amazement at the beauty or complexity of life. One of the benefits of culture shock is that it can trigger wonder by removing you from the bland routine of an environment you fully understand and are assimilated into.


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