What is Culture Shock: A Scientist Explained

Everyone of us has probably heard the term ‘culture shock’ or even experienced it once in a lifetime. But not everybody has an in-depth understanding of what it is. This article will consider this phenomenon in more detail. Before we dig deeper into the topic, let’s give some key definitions.

What is culture?

Culture is one of the most complex terms in any language. For years, it has been actively discussed in different social sciences. ‘Culture’ is also one of the most frequently used words of our time. Hence, there are multiple definitions for it, from complicated and highly scientific to simple statements.

According to the Hofstede definition, culture is “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group of people from another”. Generally speaking, culture is considered to be a shared system of values, attitudes, beliefs and behavioral patterns. Hofstede claimed that culture is something learned, not inherited. The culture of a particular person is shaped by family, teachers and friends. They say it is the second level of uniqueness in human mental programming that goes after Human nature. By the way, the third level is an individual’s personality, which is completely unique to everybody.

What is shock?

Psychologists define shock as a sudden and extremely disturbing impression on the mind. This feeling is usually triggered by some unwelcome occurrence. It can also be a result of negative perception. Stress is often produced by pain, grief or other negative emotions. In some cases, stress may lead to a lasting depression.

What is a culture shock?

For the first time, the term ‘culture shock’ was mentioned by Kalvero Oberg in 1960. He defined it as a state caused by anxiety that comes from losing our familiar signs of social intercourse. Those signs or cues include numerous ways in which we orient ourselves in a daily life. For example, some visual aspects of culture shock are behavior, customs and language. Anxiety arises because people tend to apply their own values and beliefs to those visual aspects.

Hofstede also gave a definition of a culture shock. According to him, it’s a state of distress that appears when one is taken to an unfamiliar cultural environment. He noted that culture shock may be accompanied by physical symptoms. As it was pointed out in free to use culture shock essay samples at Eduzaurus, this phenomenon is also described by Bock as an unpleasant feeling of disorientation and helplessness in a foreign society. By the way, on that website you can find paper samples in a wide range of disciplines, which is very helpful for students who were given complicated assignments. Getting back to the topic, another simple but yet exact explanation of culture shock was provided by Elisabeth Marx who called it “the experience of foreignness”.

So what do all these definitions have in common? They are all about an unpleasant reaction to exposure to a foreign culture. Almost every person that spends some time abroad faces culture shock. It’s true for tourists, students, expatriates, refugees and migrants. However, the severance of this state varies significantly from one person to another.

Culture shock takes place not only among those engaged in geographical movements but also affects sedentary communities. For example, people within one organization also experience shock referring to different business cultures. Typically, it’s even not about occupational components but rather values.

Stages of culture shock

As noted above, Oberg was the first scientist that introduced the term ‘culture shock’. He also outlined four phases of this process. They are honeymoon, crisis, recovery and finally adjustment. Those stages are also mentioned in culture shock essay examples at Eduzaurus, a platform that provides students with valuable recommendations. Check it to find the best tips that will help you boost your learning efficiency. So, let’s consider those stages in brief. The honeymoon stage is all about sheer enthusiasm and pure fascination about the foreign culture. One notices endless opportunities and perceives everything with curiosity. At this phase, people look ready to accept any situation. They don’t make negative judgments and suppress their irritation in order to concentrate on good things. Their relationships are mainly friendly but quite superficial.

The next stage describes the actual culture shock produced by differences in values and language. A person starts comparing those with their own culture, which causes frustration and anxiety. What’s more, uncertainty about oneself and the surroundings adds to a general unease. During this period, one feels the lack of belonging. Therefore, individuals seek contacts predominantly with fellow nationals.

After the previous crisis stage comes recovery. That means one accepts their problem and starts working to solve it. The solution can be anything, from improving language skills to building relationships with locals. So in general, things start to improve and the final adjustment stage begins. In this phase the adaptation reaches its highest extent and anxiety gets released. A person totally accepts the norms and habits of the host society.

Of course Oberg’s model describes an ideal process, which is not always possible. In fact, every individual is unique, so the development of culture shock can differ significantly. Some people just can’t make it through the crisis stage, so there is no way of communication and adjustment. There are a lot of cases when conflicts escalate and lead to separation instead of being resolved. Unfortunately, people are not always capable of reaching understanding and accepting differences.

Author’s BIO

Judy Nelson

Judy Nelson is a researcher and Social Science professor at one of the leading US universities. She studies culture difficulties between American and European nationalities, trying to discover new facts about the culture shock phenomenon. Judy has a number of publications in scientific journals and online magazines that brought her fame in the academic world.

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