Culture shock is a well known phenomenon due to the
integration that’s always happening with people all over the world due to their
work, tourism and migrations. It’s a nerve stretching occurrence one experience
when exposed to a whole new society or country, also the unfamiliarity of local
customs, norms, beliefs and even food which change drastically from one country
to another. Some people don’t recognize it due to their unawareness of the fact
that their surroundings is affecting them; some tend to consider the weather
and changing climate from their home country is the reason or their immune
system is trying to cope with new bacteria and germs. These assumptions are
right but its not the real thing especially once a person starts to feel the
“Rollercoaster” emotion it means culture shock is striking.
Many stories came up while researching for this topic which
intrigued me to study more this interesting fact. This sentiment doesn’t happen
to everyone that travel to a foreign land, there’s no confirmation on why it
hits some people but experts claim that it depends on the type of the
personality an individual possess and how fast a person can adapt to the change
proceeding around him even in their own safe and personal regular surroundings.
Numerous business cases report failures from their assigned employees when they
travel to another country, due to their ignorance on this matter, plus not
knowing exactly how to react in the moments when they feel strange.
I have decided to research this topic since I knew about it a
long time ago but never had the chance to go deeper regarding the feelings,
symptoms and studies about it. Plus, I traveled to many countries but never experienced
it, but some of my family members and close friends did and had different types
of mixed feelings when they were away from home. And I decided to understand
what they felt and how they adjust by time with culture shock. I would like to
investigate on the types and symptoms that one experience when he’s traveling
and the adjustment to life abroad since I would love to live outside my home
country and experience a new life which would be more decent.
For instance, after the wars that happened throughout the past
10 years many migrations happened throughout many countries around the world,
and the new comers to foreign lands had difficult times to adjust. Here in
Lebanon we had many sightings regarding the migrants doing strange things around
Lebanese citizens and they got criticized or asked not to do it which ads up to
their disorientation. In one case an NGO asked the refugees in camps in South
of Lebanon about their feelings regarding their current situation and the
results where mostly negative where they felt unsettled and missing their motherland.
They expressed similar approaches for the one that a normal person would have
once placed in a different society.
Moreover, students who
now travel abroad are more likely to experience it, they experience negative
symptoms for example like sadness, melancholy, loneliness, a very high
consciousness about their health, lack of confidence, longing to their own
families. That’s why many of these students also face difficult times in
adjusting their place in a new surrounding and some results for them going back
Culture shock comes in 4 stages, tourists might not get the
sensation of it since they spend a short period of time from 3 days till a week
or two, but individuals who spend time more than a month will definitely
experience it. They are the honeymoon stage, the frustration stage, the
adjustment stage and the acceptance stage.
Starting with the honeymoon stage is the positive feel a
person get while traveling to a new country, which is very usual since the
individual is keen-sighted on new structures, language, climate and lifestyle.
Besides communicating with natives and getting to know their customs is a whole
new experience which we all face once we are in a new country. Now as mentioned
before as a tourist a person won’t experience negative effects, one would which
it would never end but for a person to live in a new country it might become
Which would bring us to the frustration stage, its considered
to be the most difficult stage in this topic since anyone who lives newly
abroad might become frustrated from the people around him due to the lack of
the miscommunication due to the foreign language, accepting new signs from hand
gestures to even stopping signs which means something entirely new to the
newcomer since he never had it in his or her home country.
On another note other simple things can have a big impact for
example, not knowing where to purchase a ticket for the train or even knowing
the types of cards that can be bought which allows a person to use the train
frequently with paying less money, and that would be frustrating to someone his
country don’t even have trains and railroads.
Keeping in mind many of the advanced countries have
technological advancements which are new to many individuals and this might
also be a barrier for them, which would make them want to ask for help and
another barrier can be found and that is the language gap, since not all people
know the English language many just speak their own native language. Frustration
stage is very critical, since it could be a turning point to many travelers who
are on business, studying and migrating.
The third stage is the adjustment stage where many voyagers
start to feel calmer and adjusting to the new culture, language, citizens and
even lifestyle. After some time spent on asking for directions and getting to
know the acquiring of the basic needs, life becomes easier on a person. People
living in Europe or America mainly tend to be in this stage particularly if an
individual is coming from a third world country, their home nation lack many
industrial or technological intelligence. Therefore, after a while they’ll
become accustomed to the new ways of transportations, norms and culture.
The final stage is the acceptance stage, in this part many by
now have become well adjusted to the life their in. However, it doesn’t mean
their living peacefully and in full harmony, but they’re trying to be at ease
and realizing they are understanding how to function in their new surroundings.
In this phase they would be able to know where to gather their means to be
comfortable and composed.
These four stages highlight the reality we are set on once we
are transferred to a different location that we are used to.
It’s true not all people might feel those effects but there’s
a country that might make every person in the world fell them. Saudi Arabia can
be overwhelming to many individuals even for Muslims, since this country is
built upon many restrictions and limitations in life. Most people have a lot of
advantages in their republics but once they’re placed in the Arabic countries
those privileges are removed from their rights. This place is a deeply
conservative Islamic State and Islam governs all characteristics of life. While
religion is the dominating aspect there non Muslims are allowed to practice
their religion but in secrecy and without showing it to others, plus a person
must avoid talking about religion openly due to the severe punishment the state
has set. And one must not show any religious symbols or jewelry.
Generally, people living there are forbidden from many things
including, drinking alcohol or eating pork food, there’s no cinemas or theatres
which would allow their people to have some fun. While also on television many
scenes of movies are cut off and many movies are prohibited due to immoral or
Luckily there are compounds where Westerners reside in them,
which allows them to keep in touch with their routines that they are used to back
home, they have malls, food franchises and even the satellite television
channels which would allow the individuals there to feel at home and reduce the
side effects of culture shock.
After knowing what culture shock with all its elements, there
are many ways which allows us to fight it and making us feel it less. Starting
with a reminder to ourselves that what we are feeling is perfectly normal,
while keeping in touch with our loved ones, family and friends and getting
their support is a moral boost. Many have tried to eat familiar food which
reminded them of home plus maintaining habbits they used to do before like
reading a book, watching movies and series, also getting along with citizens in
doing activities which both parties like. And finally getting out trying new
things, clubbing and meeting new people helps a person to enjoy life there
In my personal experience I only experienced 3 stages out of
4 and for some this might be applicable. I had the chance to live abroad in
Cyprus, this country is a European one where they have many MANY things
different than Lebanon and when I first went there I felt the honeymoon stage
and it was amazing. I also felt like I didn’t want it to end plus wished to
live there forever. At first there was many services I was ignorant about from
buying a cell number, to subscribing on the internet service of my house and I
felt confused since their system was very different than the one I was used to.
But after asking fellow Cypriots regarding how things are obtained it felt so
easy, which led me to the third and fourth stage easily. After 3 weeks I felt
like a Cypriot who lived there for years, and enjoyed my stay since I was very
happy with the privileges the country offers from fun, sports, clubbing and
many other activities.
Another person that experienced this case is my sister; after
graduating my sister started traveling the world on business since she was a
prodigy in her field. She went to many Arabic and European countries. Her
toughest experiences were in the Islamic countries, she was prohibited from
many privileges that she normally had in Lebanon and European ones. Turkey was
the country she felt the four stages in, since she had to live in it for a
while in a town where Islam is very strict and had to go away from the town in
order to have some fun with her coworkers and unwind. She couldn’t eat their
food since they add to many spices which made her stomach hurt, plus she was
surrounded by a closed minded society. She went into depression for a short
period of time but luckily the company’s psychologist helped her snap out of
it, while guiding her throughout the rest of the stages. Now till this day she
still travels to Turkey for work but try as much as possible to do her
assignments fast so she could go back to her home in Netherlands.
In my opinion after
studying this case plus experiencing it from a different angle I think the
country has a big role on the impact of culture shock. Depending on the country
and how people perceive the reality their facing, it will work in a way to have
an influence on the individuals but knowing the ways to evade all the negative
effect is a boost for a person to have a better understanding on what he’s
going to face in a new environment.