in a second culture is an adventure and a challenge!
You might be fascinated at some of the differences between
peoples' behavior and thinking in this country your home country.
At the same time, dealing with different surroundings,
different customs, and a different language day in and day out
can be stressful indeed. Understanding cross-cultural adaptation
and understanding North American culture are the keys to helping
It is natural for people who live in a new country to go through
what is called "culture shock." This happens because
the values, traditions, customs, and beliefs one carries may
vary greatly from the new culture one now lives in. Adjustment
new situation or culture is not accomplished in a few days. It
takes time to adjust to a new lifestyle and to make new friends.
is not just experiencing new foods or language or living in a
country with a different political system.
culture refers to the values, traditions, norms, customs, and
beliefs of a group or society.
It encompasses not just what people think, but how they
think and process information.
each person undergoes adjustment at his or her own pace, successful
adjustment usually includes passage through the following four
states as identified by Gregory Trifonovich:
The first adjustment stage is characterized by a sense of anticipation,
exhilaration, and excitement. This is an exciting time as you
are fascinated with your new surroundings. Although you may not
fully understand your surroundings at this time, you are eager
to fit in. When misunderstandings increase, you are likely to
experience the second state of cultural adjustment.
This adjustment stage is characterized by feelings of frustration,
anger, anxiety, and sometimes depression. The initial excitement
gives way to frustration with the college bureaucracy, the weariness
of communicating in English every day, and in some cases, physical
discomfort or other problems. Although not fully aware of it,
you probably react to these stressors by rejecting and displaying
hostility toward the new environment. Many academic problems begin
during this stage. The hostility stage can be a difficult and
painful stage. It is important for you to keep in mind that you
are not alone -most individuals in your position experience these
emotions to some degree and that you are able to overcome them
in due time.
This stage occurs when you begin to relax in your new surroundings
and begin to laugh at minor mistakes and misunderstandings which
would have caused you major headaches in the hostility stage.
By now, you have made some friends and adjusted to the complexity
of the new academic system.
The final adjustment stage comes when you have retained the
allegiance to your home culture, but also "feel at home" in your
newly acquired one. You may now have successfully adjusted to
the norms and standards of the new environment, and should be
commended for the ability to live successfully in two cultures.
for Adapting to a new culture
The following were suggested by individuals interested in helping people
like you in the process of adjusting to a new culture:
- Listen and observe.
Since there are new rules and norms that may be unfamiliar to you, listen
carefully to verbal communication and observe non-verbal communication
carefully and try to put them in proper context.
- Ask questions.
You should not assume that you always know what is going on or
that you understand wheat you hear or see. Most Americans will
be very helpful if you need an explanation of something.<
- Try not to evaluate
or judge. You may see many things different
from your own culture. Most customs, habits, and ideas are simply
different from what you have known before.
Be open and curious.
To experience a new culture and to learn from it, it is important
to be open to new experiences. Relax and try to think of it as
a new adventure and be curious about the way things are done in
a new place. The more you explore, the more you will learn.
Exercise a sense of humor.
It is very likely that you will make mistakes as you explore a new culture,
and if you can laugh at them yourself, it will help you to learn and the
other people will respond with friendliness.
Expect some anxiety
and frustration. Learning to function In
a new culture is not easy, and it is natural to feel some anxiety
and frustration. If you recognize that these are a normal part
of the experience, you may be able to deal with them more effectively.
Your sense of humor and openness will also help.
The more you put into the experience of
becoming acclimated to your surroundings during your sojourn here, the
more you will learn from it. You should make an effort to meet people,
establish friendships, get involved in activities, and learn about the
people and their culture. One way to do this is by participating in the
cross cultural activities such as the International Coffee Hour and
trips/excursions sponsored by the International Student Services Office or
other campus groups. For details about some of these activities and
programs visit the International Student Services Office, the Office of
Student Life, and the Office of Multicultural
to a new culture is an on-going process. To reduce confusion or prevent
misunderstanding, do not hesitate to ask questions about customs, practices,
or values. Communication is the key to understanding. Don't worry about
your accent. If you don't understand, make sure you ask for an explanation
of clarification. Remember, asking for assistance or an explanation is
not considered a sign of weakness in the United States.
practicing these simple steps you can insure a smooth transition
to life in the United States while studying at Lewis University.
Shock or Culture Fatigue
shock” is a well-known expression that describes the stress and
disorientation a person feels when living in a foreign culture. However, the word “shock” suggests a specific occasion (in
English, for example, we might refer to getting bad news as “a
shock”). A more accurate
term is “culture fatigue.” It describes the gradual accumulation,
day by day, of stress from encountering the many differences
the new culture.
good and bad feelings will normally follow in a cycle.
It is typical and most common to feel happy and excited
when you first arrive. Later,
after several weeks, life in college may no longer seem special
or interesting. Many
students will feel very homesick and depressed at these times.
Normally, this feeling passes and the student returns to
a happier lifestyle that shows a realistic and healthy understanding
are some situations that trigger culture fatigue:
normal habits of communication (customs of politeness, idioms,
expressions of emotion, etc.) don’t always work the way you expect.
behave in ways that are not customary in your country.
Sometimes, it is not clear to you what the rules for appropriate,
customary behavior is.
find that people have surprisingly different values in this culture
regarding the importance of family, money, time, or other things.
one seems to understand who you really are:
People may not know or care who your family is, and your
previous accomplishments, profession, or job positions seem unimportant
– you are now “only” a student.
discover that people have different beliefs from your culture
about reality, such as what causes sickness/health, or whether
there is a spiritual realm, and its nature.
all these stresses, you are expected to function with full competence.
Symptoms of Culture Fatigue
It is not unusual to experience some of the following symptoms
from culture fatigue: exhaustion,
irritability, depression, homesickness, sleep difficulty, anxiety,
a desire to withdraw from the target culture, unexplained weeping,
overeating or overdrinking.
Many people experience one or more of these symptoms between
two months and a year into their stay in the foreign country.
Don’t be surprised if you do too!
Normally, these symptoms will come and go, and eventually
pass. If they do
not after several
weeks, seek advice from a staff person in International Student
Services, Residence Life, Center for Academic Success & Enrichment, University Ministry, or Student Affairs.
Managing Culture Fatigue There are ways to keep your culture
shock to a minimum and to return to a happy and comfortable state.
take care of your physical health: keep a good diet, get exercise
and plenty of rest.
maintain good attitudes: Keep your sense of humor and don’t be
afraid to make mistakes. Remember that cultural differences
may make you a bit uncomfortable, but that feeling will pass.
as much as you can about U.S. culture.
Be curious and interested. It will help you understand
why Americans do what they do.
Make at least one American friend - this is important. It
will increase your English ability, help you understand the U.S.,
and make you feel a part of the community quickly.
non-judgmental, open-minded, and tolerant of cultural differences.
Remember that cultural practices evolve as part of a whole cultural
system; there may
be parts of a culture you dislike or disapprove of, but it is
part of a broader social system, and makes sense inside that
person can improve and increase these characteristics in himself,
simply by consciously practicing them.
you are in immediate need of someone to talk to, find a friend,
or an international student who has been here for a while and
can help you interpret the situation.
Remember also, you can always talk to a staff person in International Student Services,
Residence Life, Center for Academic Success & Enrichment, University
Ministry, or Student Affairs.
all, remember that the cross-cultural lessons you learn now will
be with you all your life.