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Intercultural Communication and Inclusive Leadership Coaching | Numinos Coaching


16 October 2022
Yksilölliset ja yhteisölliset kulttuurit-

What Is Culture Shock?

Culture shock occurs when someone experiences a sudden change in their environment or way of life. It can be caused by moving to a new country or city, but also when changing jobs, starting college or university, getting married, having children or retiring. Basically whenever something big happens in your life.


Another way to define culture shock is as an emotional or psychological response to living in a new environment where one's cultural values are different from those of the people who surround him. This may include being shocked by the language, customs, or behavior of the locals. It also includes feeling uncomfortable with the differences between the way things work in the foreign culture and how they worked at home.


It can be difficult to adjust to these differences at first because there may be many things about the new situation that seem strange. This is especially true if the person has been living in his home country all their life. A person experiencing culture shock may feel out of place, uncomfortable, stressed, confused, being homesick and feeling isolated.




Why culture shock happens?


When a persons moves to a new country or environment where they are exposed to different customs, values, beliefs, norms, laws, rules, traditions, and behaviours, culture shock is more a rule than an exception. Often, people are shocked at first because they don't know how to react to situations that are completely foreign to them and it may be hard to recognize the source of culture shock. 


Different cultures also express emotions differently, which can make it challenging to communicate with the locals. Learning more about how different cultures show emotions, can ease your culture shock. 


For example, when I went to Mexico for the first time, I was feeling unease of not knowing all the time what is going to happen at what time. In Finland, I was used to routines and schedules, and I could trust people being punctual. In the beginning, I was frustrated and stressed but once I understood that I cannot control other people's use of time, I started to enjoy this new way of living.



The Honeymoon Stage


If you're moving into a new place, there's no doubt about it -- you're excited. You've got a lot of stuff packed up, you've found a new job, and you're ready to start living life in your new home. But while you might think that the honeymoon phase lasts forever, experts say that it actually does end. Usually honeymoon stage lasts anywhere from three to six months. It's important to recognize that the transition isn't always smooth, and many people find themselves struggling to adjust to their new surroundings afterwards. 


The Disorientation and Frustration Stage


During this stage, you may find yourself feeling frustrated because you don't understand how things work in the new place. For example, you might have trouble understanding why someone says "yes," even though it seems like they mean "no." Or you may wonder why everything takes so much longer than in your home town. If you're moving to another part of the world, you'll probably experience some of these feelings in daily life. Even though, in the beginning none of these things really bothered you, even the smallest things may set you off. You feel lost and confused about what is happening around you, and you may feel that your brain doesn't know what it's supposed to do. Why suddenly everything seems strange?


Understanding the difference between individualist and collectivist cultures can also help you to navigate the disorientation stage. You can read more about how individual and collectivist cultures impact our world view in this blog post. 


The Rejection and Anger Stage


You start feeling uncomfortable with everything that is unfamiliar. You may look down upon local customs and traditions and think that things are too different from home. In addition to missing your friends and family back home, you start to idealize the life you had back then. As a result of the transition, you can experience minor health problems and suffer from physical symptoms.


The Adaptation Stage


The final stage of the culture shock is called the adaptation phase. This is the period where you begin to adapt to your new culture and lifestyle. You become accustomed to the changes that surround you and realize that moving isn't such a big deal. You adjust to your new life and learn to embrace the new culture. You begin to learn about the language, customs, traditions and laws, and you will also start to make friends, form relationships and have a new social life. It's inevitable that you'll feel homesick from time to time, especially if you don't speak the language well. However, as you continue to learn about your new home in daily basis, you'll start to see it as something unique. 



Remember, the best way to cope with culture shock is by taking small steps at a time and being patient with yourself. The change and feeling out place will not last forever; eventually, you will adapt to your new surroundings and enjoy the experience!


Eventhough cullture shock is an inevitable part of moving abroad, it's not something that has to stop you from living in another country. Learn intercultural communication skills today and enroll in Master Intercultural Communication- Online Course. 

Source: investopedia.com



Tanja is a Certified Intercultural Communication Coach and an expert on Work Style Analysis (WSA). With a Master's Degree in Business Administration, specializing in Leadership and People Management, she helps companies and assists leaders in comprehending cultural dimensions and leveraging existing cultural differences to create powerful organizational strengths.

About the Author

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