Many new immigrants or even people who work first time abroad experience culture shock, living abroad means transitioning to a new environment that is more often than not, people experience culture shock in abroad due to completely different from your own. At first, I’m sure we are very excited but as time goes by we can feel ultimate different, we can feel the so-called culture shock. You maybe feel exhausted from making yourself understood what’s going on to your host country and you may also feel that everything doesn’t seem to work well, you may also feel lonely, depress and get tired to be alone and really wanted to speak with someone like you and you may even feel very frustrated to find a friend from your country. This is a very common problem of many people who choose to live abroad, I’m on your shoes before, that’s why let us discuss this commonly called culture shock and how can we cope with it.
What Is Culture Shock
Culture shock is the process of initial adjustment to an unfamiliar environment, it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or visit to a new country. It is more or less sudden immersion into a nonspecific state of uncertainty where individuals are not certain what is expected of them or what they can expect from the persons around them. A person may experience culture shock when they move to a cultural environment which is completely different from ones they own.
What Are The Stages Of Culture Shock
Generally, the stages of culture shock are Honeymoon, culture shock/anxiety, adjustment, and adaptation. When you move abroad you may experience emotional ups and downs until a realistic expectation is developed. Culture shock progress in a series of stages although each stage varies in length and degrees depending on the individual. But to be honest there are certain people don’t feel culture shock maybe because they used to leave their country all the time or they used to live alone to their country and love to experience new things to new places. Anyway here are the stages or phases of culture shock.
HoneymoonIn this honeymoon stage or I may call it tourist stage you are very happy and everything is exciting for you, you enjoy nature and discovering new things. You might love the new food, the pace of life and the people around you, in this stage during the first few weeks most people are fascinated by new culture but like honeymoon periods of two newly-wed, this stage eventually ends.
Culture Shock/AnxietyDuring this stage negative experiences start and problems escalate. Misunderstanding emerges, experiences are shaped by stress, depression, anxiety, tension, and confusion. You may feel that everything around you is wrong. For example, you move to the US as K1 fiancee/spouse, you may feel that your US citizen fiance/husband doesn’t love you because you can’t feel his concern and care to you. But the truth is your mind is just close to everything because you feel culture shock. In this stage, a strong feeling of dissatisfaction occur and excitement quickly turned into discomfort, impatience, anger, sadness, loneliness, and homesickness, all of that is characteristic of this stage. To the point that even the simplest thing that your husband did is big deal for you, even if he doesn’t do anything to you, you are always feeling upset to him, it’s because you are in a culture shock. You feel very lonely and homesick and feel that everything around you seems wrong and can’t help you. You may even feel don’t want to go outside because you are feeling discomfort to all the people around you and you may also feel that your self-confidence already is gone, you are afraid to communicate to local people in your host country and the language barrier may become a major obstacle in this stage.
AdjustmentIn this stage you will slowly begin to feel more familiar and comfortable with the people, culture, food, and surroundings in your host country. Usually, it takes 6-12 months to reach this stage, but it always depends on the individual because for me it takes 12 months before I feel comfortable with my new home and place. In this stage you will learn to familiarize everything in your host country, you may already start to learn to eat the food of your host country, you may already sleep comfortably at this moment. You already start to regain a sense of appreciation and understanding at this stage, the culture begins to make sense and negative reactions and responses to the culture are reduced. You can now deal with culture and begins to accept the culture ways with a positive attitude and a positive mind.
Adaptation/AcceptanceIn this stage you will begin to feel at home in your host country, you already accept everything around you. You already accepted the differences and uniqueness in each culture. You already stop comparing the difference between your home country and your host country, you begin to solve problems and manage the new culture which means you already in a mastery stage. If you reach this stage you should congratulate yourself because you did it and you did not give up and don’t decide to go home.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Culture Shock
Everyone experience adjustment to a new country and may feel the common characteristic/symptoms of culture shock and if you feel some listed below I’m sure you are experiencing culture shock.
- Mood swings
- Unexplained suddenly crying
- A feeling of isolation, depression, and sadness
- Intense longing to be back home or commonly called homesickness
- Refusal to go out
- Easily frustrated and irritated with minor concerns
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Excessive critical reactions to host country or stereotyping
- Excessive concern over cleanliness
- Loss of focus and ability to do any task
- Loss of self-confidence
- Making a comparison from the home country and new host country
- Frustrated to find other people same like you
How To Cope With Culture Shock
It is the best way to find ways to cope with the culture shock that you know that suitable for you. You need to help yourself to cope with culture shock, you are the only one who can help yourself aside to your partner/family. There’s a lot of ways to cope with culture shock, for example, you feel bored, you can entertain yourself by doing things that might interest you, like baking, cooking or blogging. And if you are a Filipino, you can ask your husband to help you to subscribe to TFC TV for you to be able to feel at home and can still watch Filipino programs even you are in the other part of the world because it helps you to forget that you are lonely and no family around you except your husband. You can also use social media and interact with certain people that living in the same country, many Facebook group are out there. Aside from that the listed below are some suggestion that might help you go through the process of culture shock/coping strategies:
- Make an effort to learn the local language
- Keep yourself preoccupied with activities you are interested in
- Make friends with other Filipino
- Keep an open mind
- Be patient and maintain a positive attitude
- Learn more about your host country
- Embrace the difference between your home country and your host country
- Learn the new culture instead of against it
- Communicate to your family at home for you to be able to stop missing them every day
- Use social media and join some Facebook group and interact with them sometime
- Join groups or volunteer in your community
- Share your experience with others that are going through the same process
- Listen and observe instead of complaining
- Focus on the benefits of differences rather than avoiding the mistake
Culture shock is normal experience of people who traveling and living abroad, everyone experience it and going through in the different stages, for some people culture shock may just take weeks and to others it may take months or year. If you are experiencing it always remember to follow the coping strategies listed above or do whatever makes you feel comfortable and ease to your new host country. Whether you are introvert or extrovert please try to make friends to your new place, it helps a lot to you but if you cannot find any friends that’s OK, ask your partner to bring you in some places that might help you to stop the feeling of culture shock. As a Filipino who lives in the Philippines all my life then suddenly move to the US I must say it’s very difficult to cope culture shock, it’s been 1 year before I cope up and accepted the fact that the US is my new home. At first, it’s very exciting which is honeymoon stage, but after a couple of weeks the homesick attacked and always experience the unexpectedly crying without any reason, I always feel lonely and irritated because I miss the Philippines. I miss my family, I miss everything. But as time goes by I’ve learned to adjust with the help of my husband and daughter until I totally accepted the reality and enjoy the quiet life in my new place.
It’s true that Philippines and Filipino are unique because the people are warm and friendly, Filipino are very sociable that’s why you will never get lonely there when you feel bored inside the house all you have to do there is just go outside because there’s always people around ready to start a conversation. Admitted that the Philippines is a poor country but people are very sociable and friendly, the spirit of happiness is always there. As some people say, “a place is only good as the people you know in it, it’s people that make the place”. Philippines is very different to the US, the first time I noticed when I move to the US, it’s very lonely, I can see an empty and silent street, I don’t even notice that the place that we are driving is already a city because I can’t see anyone. The malls only have few people inside and very quiet, can’t even see neighbor but maybe because they are busy working. It’s very different from the Philippines, that’s why I can’t avoid comparing the differences of 2 countries during my culture shock experience. But despite differences, I’ve learned to accept that the US and Philippines have differences that we don’t need to compare, they have own beauty and own culture that we need to accept no matter what. I even felt lucky because I’m thinking if this is how I feel during my adjustment period, what more those Filipino overseas workers(OFW) feel. I’m lucky that I came to the US to build my own family and not to work and when I’m thinking OFW I feel ungrateful because they have to work hard for the family back home but never mind the culture shock, every time I’m thinking OFW it helps me to appreciate things and stop complaining because if OFW don’t complain who am I to complain just because I feel culture shock. Let’s just be thankful that we have the privilege of having more than one home.
If you have culture shock experience don’t hesitate to comment below.
Thanks a lot,