The point of traveling is not just to see the sites, drink cocktails in a hotel and take a dip in the sea. Traveling deals with so much more, like understanding the culture of different nations and expanding one’s view of the world. Some people don’t want to spend just a couple of weeks at a location, because they feel it is just not enough time to truly experience the people there.
If you travel to a country with vastly different customs and social norms that those you are used to, as well as the different language and rhythm of life, you experience something called culture shock. What is it?
When Does It Occur?
Let us assume for a second you are an outspoken woman from one of the western countries. You would experience culture shock if you traveled to a country where the patriarchy is strong and the positions of men and women in society are not what you are used to.
Another example of culture shock is if a person with lax working habits traveled to Japan. Culturally, dedicating your life to work while jeopardizing your health and interpersonal relationships is a part of Japanese national identity, though there have been steps undertaken in recent years to rectify the situation.
Imagine, if you will, how an Amish person would feel on a nude beach, or how a greeting would go between a left-handed person and the locals in India.
During culture shock, you may experience loneliness, alienation, and even xenophobia at times. This is natural, as you feel confused. People are brought up with a certain scope of values, whether they are aware of it or not. This is why it is so shocking to see societies not having those same values.
There are four stages of culture shock that people experience, depending on their ability to adapt and the time spent in a country.
The Honeymoon period, like the name implies, is viewing the culture through the rose-colored glasses. We are fascinated, or maybe even infatuated by the different customs. Whether it is expressing your opinion loudly and honestly, as opposed to moderately and with tact, or enjoying certain activities, only to see others renounce them as vices, these customs seem charming at first.
The Negotiation stage is present in many psychological processes, and culture shock is no different. You may experience anxiety and may feel personally attacked. You try to make sense of your surroundings and to find some middle ground. When you feel disconnected from the world around you, it creates problems in your everyday life.
During the Adjustment stage, people who started their lives abroad slowly start to learn how to communicate effectively with their environment. It depends on the person in question how long this will take, but it can be an entire year. You are now starting to accept this new culture, or, at least, your position in it.
Finally, when you reach the Adaptation stage, you are comfortable with your new environment. You still have a significant portion of your previous characteristics, but they don’t prevent you from enjoying yourself.
People exposed to a new culture can experience problems like insomnia, irritability, homesickness, xenophobia, and withdrawal, to name a few. Another issue that travelers and ex-patriates deal with is reverse culture shock when they return home. They may see their own culture as overly conservative or liberal – perhaps even completely obsolete.