What is Culture Shock?
Culture Shock is a normal phenomenon occurring to everyone experiencing a new culture, understanding its various stages helps you to develop a positive outcome from your experience abroad. Don’t panic!
In a world where travelling, migrating and studying in another country is a wide spread phenomenon, culture shock has become a construct of crucial importance. It will be argued that culture shock, previously given negative connotations and affiliated with negative outcomes, has in fact over the years achieved a positive outlook and might actually enhance communication self-efficacy in sojourners.
In order to understand what culture shock is, firstly it is useful to look into what culture represents.
Culture is a way of life, a product of history, customs and traditions that one acquires by living in a specific environment (Oberg 1960). To say it with Geertz’s (1973,5) words, culture is “believing… that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs”.
An individual is not born with culture and will have to learn all the signs, cues, language, customs and traditions which knit it. Once they learn, culture becomes an automatic “skill” which allows them to obtain what they want from that specific environment. Most of the times people regard their own culture as the best culture and believe their way to do things is the right way.
This attitude is named ethnocentrism; a belief, that not only the culture but also the race and country are at the centre of the universe. When individuals are suddenly transplanted into a new culture they face a general state of uncertainty as they do not know what is expected from them or what to expect from the new environment. This is when culture shock takes place.