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Culture Shock

What is Culture Shock?

When arriving in a new country, the unfamiliar surroundings, culture, language, and overall environment can influence the way someone feels about the sudden changes. People may experience a range of emotions including confusion, frustration, and shock when trying to adapt to a new way of living.


Culture shock is a feeling that someone experiences when someone is suddenly affected by an unfamiliar culture and lifestyle.

What Causes Culture Shock?

Culture shock is a normal part of living in a new country. There are many reasons why someone may have difficulty adapting to a new country. It is understandable that the transition process will take time to adjust and find methods that work for you.

Culture shock can be caused by a series of things such as:

Unfamiliar greetings & gestures

Unfamiliar food 

Unfamiliar customs

Language barriers

What Are The Impacts?

Culture shock can cause people to experience:

  • Sadness and loneliness

  • Body aches and pains

  • Disruptions to sleeping patterns caused by time zone changes

  • Changes in mood and feeling vulnerable

  • Anger, irritability, and resentment

  • Loss of identity

  • Lack of confidence

  • Withdrawal from social settings

  • Wanting to go back home

5 Stages of Culture Shock

There are 5 stages of culture shock that can explain what happens when someone experiences a new culture and what can be done to make the transition smoother.


It is important to remember that not everyone will go through these stages in this exact order and will likely experience a fluctuation of different emotions that are unique to each individual. 

Use these stages as a guideline to address how you may feel:

1. Honeymoon stage

You may be curious about everything around you and seek new experiences in the new country, through comparing the new culture and your own culture and be interested in learning more about the local people.

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2. Irritability & Hostility

You may start to feel the excitement start to fade and recognize difficult or uncomfortable situations. Things such as getting lost, language barriers, and other frustrations may cause you to feel frustrated at the new culture and start to miss family and friends in your home country.


3. Adjustment stage

You may start to develop a better understanding of the local lifestyle and customs, and feel more relaxed finding your way around a new country.

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4. Adaptation stage

You may start to develop a sense of belonging to the new culture and adapt to a new way of life. You may start to feel less isolated and develop a new social circle or explore new activities.


5. Re-entry shock

You return back to your home country after living abroad and experience reverse culture shock. You may realize that everything is different from when you left and may need to re-adjust again.

How Can I Deal With Culture Shock?

  • Recognize culture shock as part of the process of transitioning to a new environment. Celebrate the opportunities of having knowledge of different cultures and customs as a part of your journey.

  • Connect with other international students who may have gone through similar experiences and share your advice with one another

  • Prepare yourself to adapt to the new culture including learning about the new country, food, weather, customs so that you are able to adapt more comfortably

  • Keep an open mind and try new activities to get involved in the new country. This can take some time and you may not enjoy everything you try. Be willing to explore how you can participate in a new environment.

  • Attend support groups or seek professional support if you continue struggling with finding balance in your daily life. Different wellness centers in schools or in the community may have resources to help international students adapt to a new environment.

Remember that culture shock is a difficult process to navigate and give yourself some time and space to adjust to a new country or culture. You are still able to make individual choices and don't expect to know everything all at once!

Culture Shock Infographics & Tip Sheets

Click one of the topics below to download and print our sheets or click here to view more of our infographics. 

Tips For Dealing With Culture Shock

Signs of Culture Shock

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