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By: admin
The term "culture shock" originated in the 1950s. Basically it describes the physical and emotional discomforts that occur when someone moves from one cultural environment to another. There are several stages to culture shock which start when you first enter the new environment right through the acculturation process and back to re-adjustment when returning home. Culture shock has no steady line of progression. Each stage you go through can vary in length of time, or occur at clearly defined times.

In the holiday stage, which is the period just before and just after the move everything is new and exciting. One feels very energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful about everything in life. This is followed by the deterioration/ falling apart stage during which there may be great feelings of dissatisfaction. Things are difficult and one's excitement turns to distress. One goes through communication difficulties, impatience, anger, grief, and a feeling of inexperience. There is more hope during the adjustment stage. This is when you can see some direction, you are able to laugh at yourselves again and life begins to feel a bit more balanced. During the orientation stage there is an increasing feeling confidence and a sense of belonging. One starts to make connections within the new culture, and starts to enjoy many aspects of many of the customs and cultural conventions. It becomes easier to adopt these practices and make them part of your life and daily routine. Lastly, repatriation is when one returns to the "home country." A "reverse culture-shock" is often experienced. Re-adjusting to the old culture is as hard as, and may be even more difficult than the original move.

So in effect "culture shock' is a result of carrying out your everyday life in a way that you are not used to. Added to this is the fact that one is removed from familiar places and faces. It is quite natural then to undergo homesickness, stress, fear, and confusion. I have known people who did get on the first plane heading back home. But then there are many who stay. It is important to know that it is OK to experience all the feelings and frustrations one goes through, but also that there are ways to help you handle the challenges that you will face.

These tips may seem easy and oversimplified, but they work and before you know it you will be well on your road to recovery. You will be able to enjoy your new adventure and new aspects of your self-identity that you might not have had the opportunity to previously explore.

* Don't expect yourself, others or situations to be perfect.
* Have an open mind.
* Be active and participate.
* Speak to support groups and/or individuals.
* Stay in touch with family and friends.

Your time abroad is definitely a unique and special time in your life. It is sure to be something you'll never forget. If you are aware of the stages that are bound to happen and follow the easy, but effective tips suggested, you'll be able to handle it successfully and have the time of your life.

A quote to remember: "Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being." - Thomas Carlyle
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