The Effects of Culture Shock

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Author: Raiven Ocasio

Every individual coexisting in the world belongs to a culture. Culture directly translates to “the social behavior and norms found in human societies.” Culture is what helps unite people, it is a lifestyle. Depending on where in the world you live, you have a different lifestyle; the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the music you listen, the dances, the language, etc. Culture is what connects people to their environments and societies. Different cultures influence people differently, a person’s culture gives insights to their views on certain matters, their values, day to day, beliefs, and so on. Though many cultures do share in the same or similar characteristics, every culture is unique in their own way. Culture evolves as the society it belongs to does, culture is intangible. Culture cannot be stripped from anyone person, as everyone belongs to one.

Where a person lives effects the culture. For example, rap music originated in the Bronx, New York, therefore rap music belongs to New York or American culture, though of course other cultures may indulge and share in this passion for rap music, it does not change the culture in which it is derived from. Another example is Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights. Diwali celebrates good over evil, this festival or celebration if you will, belongs to the Indian culture as it was first celebrated there. Though other countries in the Asian continent might celebrate Diwali and take pride in it, it is a part of Indian culture. As it may seem, culture is an essential part of who a person is and where they come from, essentially without culture, it would be difficult to understand a person’s views on life, and why they do the things that they do.

People move around the world for various reasons, one being to study or due to possible job opportunity. Often times, when a person moves to a new place of unfamiliarity, they experience a type of shock. What is this shock referred to as? Culture shock. What is culture shock? According to, culture shock is, “a state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and culture environment.” Now a question in the minds of few might be, who does this effect? Culture shock effects the individual who has moved to this new location and is amongst new kinds of people. Another question might be how does it affect people worldly? Culture shock is a common thing today, as it has been for centuries, it is the adaptation of a new environment from another, when this happens, it creates for the individual, a sensation of what we now know as, culture shock. This affects people worldly in an emotional and mental way as they try to adapt to new changes and values of a new societies separate from the one they were used to.

Though culture shock is overwhelming, usually having a negative connotation with it, culture shock is not always seen as something negative. Yes, it is terrifying to some to experience this culture shock because people are not always welcoming to adapting to a new set of values and a new type of mannerisms and lifestyle, however it is always important. I myself, have experienced a sudden shock in culture when I was for the first time, leaving to a new country for the summer. I was just shy of 14 years old when I left to Europe for the first time for three months. I did not go with my parents or friends, I was a part of a student ambassador program, where I knew no one and did not have my family with me. It was a hard time for me, though I was excited to experience a new part of the world, I was not sure the drastic change that came along with this change. When I first arrived in Dublin, Ireland, I was with a stay at home family. The first change I noticed was the change in time and currency, it was difficult to understand their economic system as mine in America had been so easily instilled into me. The time was also a difficult adjustment, as I was unable to reach my parents at certain times of the day as frequently as I might’ve wanted to or might’ve been used to. Another major adjustment was the language, when I stood with my stay at home family, their primary language was Irish. For someone not coming from this culture and not understanding their language or eating their food, and being so accustomed to American foods and the English language, it was very difficult for me. The beginning of this trip, I experienced culture shock which resulted in me feeling extremely home-sick. I would call my parents and cry on the phone to them, often times waking them up and asking to come home. I decided to stick it out and try and adapt to their culture. I spent the remainder of my summer there, in Ireland where I learned a ton about the culture of Irish people. That trip helped me get a better understanding of other people from other places.

Culture shock is important because it helps people understand diversity first hand and learn to adapt and appreciate new cultures. The overall purpose of culture shock is to help people connect with different types of people than they are used to and experience an element of diversity. The purpose of culture shock is to learn and adapt to new lifestyles and be more open-minded to the nature that there are other people living amongst us, that are apart of different cultures and have different belief systems and sets of mannerisms, values, ideas, and overall way of life.

All over the world people are eating differently and are accustomed to certain foods and drinks that becomes part of their culture. A traditional or cultural food example of the Dominican Republic is the breakfast food, “Mangu”. A personal from the Dominican Republic who is used to eating this as a breakfast food might find other foods weird in taste or unsatisfying or maybe amazing. Everyone who is a part of a country whether they are aware of it or not, has familiarized themselves and adapted in some way to the customs of that culture. Though yes, people can enjoy dishes from other places in the world, it might come as a shock to someone who is eating in another country and might be picky with their food choice due to the unfamiliarity of the food. Food can be a part of culture shock just as much as anything else. Sometimes, individuals study somewhere new or who recently moved to a new country might find themselves craving particular food and drinks from back home, now whether it is the actual taste they miss or the reminder and association it has with home is of course, questionable and can vary. In every country food is prepared and cooked differently than another. The fear of not knowing exactly what it is you’re consuming due to the preparation of the meal might cause stress which is a result of culture shock. This does not last forever, as a person learns to familiarize themselves with the different food types, they will grow a possible liking for the food or at least a tolerance for it to prevent starvation. published an article by Casey Irwin from the University of Delaware entitled, “What is Culture Shock, and How May it Affect My Eating While Abroad?” this article suggests ways in which a person might overcome food culture shock.

Music and Dance are extremely important attributes to culture. What a person listens to and the way in which they dance is a reflection of where they come from or the country in which they live. Like food, song and dance is different in every culture. In certain countries, dance is very popular and seen as a cultural and traditional symbol of the country. Some countries that dance is very popular in is Africa, Ukraine, Albania, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, and many more. Each have their own style of dancing and their own songs in which they dance to, this varies depending on the country. Africans, known for their dancing style, use many instruments to dance to and have a unique way of preforming these dancing. In the Ukraine, dancing is a very symbolic and traditional system to Ukrainians, it is a representation of their culture. They use special uniforms when dancing that is unique to Ukrainian culture, the uniforms are different for the ages. Albania, another country that is extremely big on dance, have costumes for when they perform at festival’s and events, this costume is special to Albanians as it helps set their dancing style aside from that of other countries. In many Hispanic cultures, they often share some of the same dances, however the dances originate specifically from one place. For example, Bachata and Merengue. Though both these dances, Bachata and Merengue are used commonly in many Spanish speaking countries and the common wealth of Puerto Rico which exists in the United States, its origin is the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic, like the other countries described and like many other countries, have ethnic costumes that belong to the dancers and fit cultural lifestyle, however these dances are performed on a day to day basis in and around the house, at parties, carnivals, and festivals. How might song and dance have a place in culture shock? Well, easy, when entering a new country, you will be introduced to popular dances and music as a part of that culture, it may come as a shock because you may not be into or used to the type of songs and dance as the country you are in is familiar with which will make you homesick as you feel out of the “norm.”

Another common cultural element that is significant to different countries as part of their culture is the different sports in which they partake in. A well-known sport is soccer, though this is a popular sport in many countries, it originated in London. The word “soccer” is actually an English word and it is said that the British made soccer into what it is today and exists as the reason it is so big. In many countries, the sport is known as “futbol” which is different than the American, football. Soccer or Futbol, are extremely popular sports in Germany, London, Netherlands, Italy, and all across South America. Canada, famous for the sport of hockey is internal, and played by many countries, however it origins date back to Canadians. America is famous for football, one of Americans most popular sport as well as basketball, typically it is an American sport and played amongst American teams. Though many countries can be educated on the sport, it is not many other countries do not participate in it. Lastly, but not limited to, the Dominican Republic, though DR has several cultural elements in which it is responsible for, its famous for the international sport of baseball, which is played all over America. Participating in these sports or maybe just something you understand and are used to watching may come as a shock when you are introduced to different sports and have to learn the rules in another country. Thankfully though, sports are not as much of a culture shock as many other elements are because the Olympics exist and people are aware of the many other sports that exist in the world, whether they know how to play or not. Typically, whether sports come as culture shock to you or not really just depends solely on the person because it might not affect everyone, especially people from America who study abroad, as sports are so diverse here.

Currency is an obvious cultural difference in every country as every country has a different economic system and currency value. This may come as a shock to anyone studying or living abroad. The reason for the culture shock of currency is due to its difference in not just look but value. When in another country, you will have to learn and adapt to the value of the dollar there. This might cause a great deal of stress when learning the currency system and economy in another country, it is for this reason that currency is considered to culturally shock someone. Some countries though do share the same currency name but belong to different countries and have a different value, for example, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic, these countries both use “pesos” as their dollar but in both countries the dollar value is different.

The environment also has its position in culture shock. This is because in every country, people have a different type of lifestyle, some might be used to a slow pace lifestyle, whereas others might be used to a faster pace lifestyle. Some countries are a part of the slow pace lifestyle which might be farm life or just not as busy in the streets with less commotion and traffic. In other countries, the streets can be crammed, busy, noisy, and very fast pace and it all depends on what a person is used to. Some people are used to the hustle and bustle of the city life with many cars and traffic, and others might be used to a calmer setting with less traffic. Transportation has a lot to do with the way a country or city is viewed as fast pace or slow pace. The environment can 100% become culturally shocking to a person because they might not be used to the pace, which affects them and how they get theirown day to day tasks done.

A countries mannerisms differ in each place. This has to do with the way a person sets their utensils on a table, the way a person cuts their food, or eats, the way someone greets another person etc. Mannerisms are culturally shocking because it differs in every country and what you may be used to at home can be seen as disrespectful in another country. Different people greet each other differently in different countries. An example of this is in Japan, in Japan if you were to shake a person’s hand like American’s are used to, it is considered utter disrespect. The Japanese bow when they greet, it is a sign of respect to the person you are greeting and in Japan manners are extremely significant. It is also important not to look into the persons eyes in which you are speaking to in some cultures because some see it as a sign of disrespect. In America, Americans greet one another politely by shaking the hand of the other person. This is a large difference in many cultures and it can come as a shock. This is one of the difficult ones to learn and get used to for people studying abroad or living abroad.

The most obvious, and common form of culture shock is the difference in language. Every country has its own language and dialect so this is probably the longest and most difficult thing to learn when in a new country. Though in many countries they have language classes when studying there or dictionaries to help translate or of course, google translate which is used by billions, it is still difficult when communicating with someone whom does not speak the same language as you, it makes it difficult to adjust and adapt to a new lifestyle if you cannot understand what it is you are being told. Language is one of the most difficult issues of culture shock because with each language has rules and pronunciation’s and meanings. This can be practiced daily and studied though, so with practice and determination this as well as every other element belonging to culture shock, is temporary.

This is debatable on whether or not this affects the average person who experiences culture shock, however religion does hold a place in culture shock. The reason for this is the many different religions people belong to or do not belong to or believe in. Not every country has the freedom to a religion, therefore, some are forced into a religion they do not agree with or believe in. Furthermore, in every country certain religions dominate over the other so depending where it is that an individual resides, they can receive an awful amount of hate for the religion in which they choose to be a part of, if of course given that choice. Some religions are stricter than others and the countries that practice these religions might be stricter as well, therefore, it could not only cause a cultural shock when adapting to a new religion but also, a hatred and dislike for the country if they are forced into one. This will result in stress, depression, and other emotional instabilities. To finalize this thought, religion is an extremely difficult element of culture shock because it may vary depending on where you are and how you take it and of course if you belong to that religion. Religion is important because it has a role in how a person thinks and acts morally. A person’s religion says something about their values, if they practice it. Though this is a more negative effect of culture shock, it again depends on where in the world you are so it is important to know about the place in which you are going.

How might one recover from culture shock? There are ways in which a person can recover or “deal with” culture shock, and a few of these ways include: learning about the country in which you are visiting or planning to move and trying to remain open minded. It is important when visiting another country to remain open minded because if not, you will not enjoy your visit. If a person if feeling homesick, a method to getting over that feeling is bringing something with them on the trip that reminds them of their culture and their home land.

Culture shock is a phenomenon that is common in today’s age, many people are affected by it daily and it can exist at any age. Culture shock is experienced amongst travelers; this phenomenon has a very negative affect on the mind sometimes as it may cause a great deal of stress. Sometimes this shock can lead to depression as a result of too much mental strain on the brain. There are four stages of culture shock according to, these stages are: the honeymoon stage, the frustration stage, the adjustment stage, and the acceptance stage. All of these stages play a part in a person’s mental health when undergoing culture shock.

According to, culture shock is due to loneliness and it affects 40% of foreign students residing in the United States, this 40% is shown to not have close friends on campus in the U.S. Some people take longer to come around to the acceptance stage than others which is often what leads them into depression and other stressors involving mental instability. With the number of international students in the United States constantly increasing, more people are being affected with this culture shock. According to several studies, the people in which are affected the most by this is international students. As a result of this, businesses and schools are becoming a lot more sensitive to cultural differences.

In conclusion, culture shock affects people in different ways. Though normally seen as a negative, culture shock does share positives in the way that it teaches an individual about a new place and the people that exist in the world around them. This shock of culture affects the mind mostly, due to stress and other mental instabilities. Culture shock is alive and real and affects many people worldwide, however it is treatable and it is temporary.


Irwin, Rachel. 2007. Culture Shock: Negotiating Feelings in the Field.

Kingsley, Richard. 2013. Culture Shock

Natali Creglia. 2016. Impact of Cultural Shock on Mental Health health

Participate Learning. The 4 Stages of Culture Shock.

Internations. What Is Culture Shock?

Worktheworld. Why Culture Shock is Good for You

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