Culture Shock

Culture shock is a period of ups and downs typically experienced when moving to a new culture.  The process is different for each individual and can vary in onset, length, sequence and severity. It helps to be familiar with the stages of culture shock since knowing about it can ease the process. 

Typical symptoms may include physical and emotional changes such as:

  • Homesickness
  • Feeling like a child
  • Disliking the new culture
  • Stress
  • Frequent crying, or feeling like crying
  • Changes in appetite or energy levels
  • Sleeplessness
  • Lasting feeling of sadness
  • Headaches or stomachaches

Over time the feelings and symptoms will dissipate, but there are a number of tips and tricks for hastening the adjustment process.  Be proactive in getting to know your new environment.  Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new whenever you have the opportunity.  Keep an open mind and a healthy sense of adventure.  If you find yourself in a low place where you are having difficulty coping, or you are experiencing severe symptoms of culture shock, seek counseling immediately. 

In U.S. culture where individuals often live apart from the social support network of family and friends, it is normal to seek counseling in times of emotional distress.  There are many caring, qualified professionals such as social workers (M.S.W.), psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) or psychiatrists (M.S. in psychiatry) who can listen and provide the support you need to help you through a period of difficulty.  OISS advisers are also available to listen and provide referrals.