How to Respond to Culture Shift

You will feel more liberated after experiencing culture shift because you will have learned new approaches to doing things in your host country that have been adopted as part of daily life. By getting to know your host country and understanding the logic that lies behind the style of living there, you will be able to foster more effective interaction within the new culture.

To ease the stress of culture shift here are several solutions that can help you overcome it more quickly:

  1. When you first arrive, observe your surroundings so that you may trace any odd interactions you see to their underlying values. Once you have identified some of your host country’s values, share some of your observations with a native person whom you trust. You will find that it is a great opportunity to develop deeper, more intimate relationships with a few selected host nationals so that you may converse non-judgmentally about issues impacted by cross-cultural beliefs.
  2.  Do not fear losing your home values or personal values. Partaking in the customs of your host country will not make you less of an American. It will only enlighten your mind and spirit and allow you to be more at ease in your new environment. It will open doors to understanding.
  3. It is important to maintain a good sense of humor. You may feel foolish at times when you have difficulty expressing yourself in another language, but learn to laugh it off. Many people will enjoy conversing with you and commend you for your efforts.
  4. Keep your mind occupied and be active. Activities such as reading, exercising, and socializing will keep you in healthy spirits. If you are feeling down, engage in some self-care activities before re-engaging with others.
  5. If you take time to inform others of your home country by sharing scrapbooks, photo albums, or other types of visuals with them, you will build closer relationships that will allow your hosts to get to know a part of you that is not so apparent in your daily living situation.
  6. Trust that your study abroad experience will be positive. As you acquire more knowledge about your host country and you begin to develop new friendships, you will discover the innumerable rewards of studying abroad.
  7. Learn the local language, if applicable. Speaking the language of your host country will demonstrate your initiative to learn and, at the very least, will be a courtesy to your hosts. Attempting to use the local language is a good basis on which to build new relationships with local people. Look for various ways to improve your language skills. Practicing is very important. If you are participating in an immersion program, try to speak your host country’s language at all times, even with your American peers. Do not try too hard to avoid grammatical mistakes. This may limit the communication and learning process. Words, phrases, sentence fragments—understood or spoken—will be appreciated. You will also experience a great sense of self-gratification once you begin to learn more and more about the language.
  8. You should try to recognize that other cultures may use different verbal and non-verbal communication methods. Body language, the use of personal space when conversing, and other non-verbal communication can be very different than what you are used to in the United States. Likewise, some cultures are not nearly as frank, sarcastic, or confrontational when discussing certain topics as Americans. Sometimes, things are implied in conversation but are not actually voiced. It is important to remember that differences in communication styles are just that — different. You should avoid making judgments about a person’s mannerisms until you understand how verbal and non-verbal communication styles work in your host culture.
  9. Be open-minded. It is important to observe culture in a way that makes it easier to see how behavior fits together, both logically and systematically. The tendency of people to impose their own values and assumptions onto people in a new culture usually inhibits cross-cultural understanding. Moreover, if you attempt to do something based on your own assumption of efficiency, you will be frustrated and feel that people are deliberately making things hard for you. Try to be open-minded rather than resort to becoming defensive and holding on to your preconceived stereotypes.