The Shock of a New Culture
Whether they want to admit it or not, anyone who moves to a place where people’s language, behavior, ideas, and ways of thinking are different will experience some degree of “culture shock.” Culture shock can be understood as a set of feelings a person has when faced with a very new living situation. The feelings include:
- Excitement and stimulation
- Tiredness (sometimes made worse by difficulty sleeping)
- Depression (low energy, lack of motivation to do anything)
- Anger and hostility toward the local people
- Questioning whether they have made a mistake in going to the US
Some students/scholars are more affected by these feelings than others. The feelings last longer for some people than for others. Some people feel reasonably comfortable in their new setting within a few weeks; for most people the period is longer—several months, or a year or more.
The culture shock experience is not necessarily a bad thing. It can make you more focused and curious, and give you motivation to learn more about your new surroundings. It can encourage you to be more flexible as you look for new ways of thinking and acting, so you have a better chance of success in the new culture. Culture shock is not an illness that requires medical treatment. Normally, it passes with time. However, it is important to note that if you develop feelings of profound sadness or depression, you should seek professional assistance from the Princeton University Health and Wellness Services
Reverse culture shock - Many students report having “reverse culture shock” when they return to their country. Perhaps without realizing it, they have changed in significant ways while in the United States. In addition, things at home may have changed too. The result is that returning students have to make a reverse adjustment to their own culture and society and the changes that have occurred since they left home.