What is culture shock? 5 symptoms


Looking back on some of my travels and knowing now how culture shock is defined by academics, my answer to this question is a reluctant YES. Reluctant because I have always wanted to believe I was prepared for everything I faced when travelling or moving to a new social or cultural setting. And frankly, nothing really shocked me so much that I could say “Oh yes, that was definitely culture shock!” The point is I completely misunderstood this concept. But instead of listing my suggestions what culture shock is, I thought I’d share some interesting research I came across recently.

According to psychologists, culture shock is the anxiety and emotional disturbance experienced by people when two sets of realities and conceptualisations meet, shock from facing something new. This experience may easily lead to negative evaluation of person’s own culture or he may consider his own culture superior.

Symptoms of culture shock by Oberg :

  • excessive hand washing
  • excessive concern over water and food safety
  • fear of physical contact with representatives of a new culture
  • a feeling of helplessness and dependence on long-term residents of one’s own nationality
  • excessive fear of being robbed or injured, concern over minor pains and cuts and abrasions

This reaction is a defence from new information, the amount of which is huge, so a person feels powerless for a period of time. Along with it, culture shock may be useful.

The symptoms list here is extremely short but in fact, scientists name more than 50 other signs of culture shock.

This research makes me think where and when I had culture shock… Anyway, knowing this now it’s even more interesting to compare the level of culture shock in different environments. 🙂

And you, have any ever had culture shock and where it happened to you?

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