Adapting to a new culture or way of life is difficult because people are accustomed to their old habits and traits. Culture shock occurs when a person visits another country and feels strange and uncomfortable with new things. Culture shock does not happen instantly, and it is not only felt by visitors and tourists from abroad; even locals can feel it when they move from one part of the country to another. At first, a person may not feel culture shock, but as time goes on, they start to notice many things that they do not like. A person may feel uncomfortable, miss home, and even feel depressed. It is important to deal with culture shock and not let it ruin one’s visit. Even when one visits a country for a short period, culture shock is still there, but it can be a way to wonder about strange things that can be seen in a new country.
As it was mentioned before, culture shock is not something that happens to a person the very instant he or she comes to a new country. A visitor clearly sees many differences between one’s homeland and the country he or she is currently in; nevertheless, these differences do not really trouble or worry a person. He or she feels excited because of the trip and also has great expectations for the coming stay. That is why culture shock may not be visible at this stage.
Such emotions are similar to the one’s tourists experience. They come to a country for a short period of time which is why they try to enjoy their stay to the fullest. They try not to focus on negative aspects but emphasize the things they like. Even if they do not like the place they are visiting, they know that they will leave it quickly which allows them to deal with psychological pressure effectively.
On the other hand, whenever a person visits a country for a considerable amount of time or even moves to a new country, it may be very challenging for him or her to adapt to the new situation. At first, things do not seem to affect the person that strongly because of the feelings of excitement about the new place. Then, this feeling runs off, and a person begins to notice many things which may be not really to her or his liking. That is why he or she starts to feel uncomfortable, misses home badly, and even feels depressed sometimes. Thus, it is important to deal with culture shock and not let it ruin one’s impressions of the country. A person cannot let negative emotions and misunderstandings ruin one’s visit.
Nevertheless, culture shock is there even when one visits the country for a short period of time; only this way culture shock is more of a way to wonder about strange things which can be seen in a new country. I can speak about this matter using my own experience as an example. I can describe my visit to the United States and the emotions I felt. There were many things that I liked, and many others which I did not. I experienced culture shock and had a hard time adapting to changes, but now, when I look back at my experience, I can analyze the time I had spent objectively.
First thing that I can say about my experience was the need to adapt to a new form of communication between people. At first, it was a little bit hard for me to understand Americans. It may be because of two reasons. The first one was the lack of language skills; obviously, I communicated and practiced English before, but it was never as much as in the United States. Initially, it was hard for me to use English for such long periods because I wanted to use my native language instead. My English was a translation at that time; I used to think in my native language, and then I translated everything into English. That was why the communication process was quite difficult and took considerable effort and time. After practicing English a little bit more, I became more adjusted to the high-speed language flow and could easily understand everything despite the unstoppable stream of foreign words around me. I even started to think in English which helped me to improve my communication skills greatly.
On the other hand, the second barrier which stood in the way of understanding Americans was not as easy to deal with as the first one. I mean the psychological effect of culture shock. Americans are very friendly people who are easy-going and eager to make acquaintances. I really valued that trait in Americans because it was very unusual for me. I found it very different to the way people behave in my home country because they are more conservative and secretive. That it why it felt a little bit strange for me to adjust to this new behaving manner at first. On the other hand, the real culture shock struck me after I have adjusted to this manner because I totally misunderstood it. Making acquaintances does not mean making friends. I thought that if Americans are acting friendly toward me when we are introduced to each other that means that they want to be friends with me. As it turned out, they only wanted to make a good impression on me without any further goals.
Informality was also a reason for a culture shock. Americans were introducing themselves by their first names only which is common in the United States. Nevertheless, using only first names does not change the formal relations people have which is why it is important to take this point into consideration. At first, I was misguided by this trait, but then I learned to distinguish between formal and informal relations.
I was also very surprised by the individualistic attitude Americans had. It was very hard for me to adjust to it at first because I was used to the collective work. That is why making friends rather than acquaintances was difficult at the beginning. I was also surprised by the way Americans could say “no” even to close friends by risking ruining valuable relations. On the other hand, I came to value that trait because it motivated my personal growth and the urge to rely on myself only. Thus, I came to appreciate the individualism of Americans as a way of improving oneself and being responsible.
I collided with culture shock while analyzing the way Americans value space because it was also something very new for me. I watched how Americans communicate and how they do not let anyone in their “personal space”; that was a very interesting observation which had helped me to understand American culture better.
I felt the greatest culture shock when it came to the eating habits of Americans. I could not understand the way Americans were thinking when it came to food and beverages. Americans eat a lot of unhealthy food daily; they often eat at night. Sometimes their food portions are too big, but they eat it them completely. Americans know that the food they consume is unhealthy but they still eat it. After that, they diet and do a lot of physical exercises to remain healthy and lose weight.
As for me, I could hardly understand this process because I thought it was very illogical. I could not understand why Americans put so much effort into losing weight when they could simply change their eating habits by eating healthier food. I did not understand why fast food was so popular in America because I considered it a very bad place to eat. That was why it was hard for me to adapt to it, and it was also hard to maintain my health.
On the other hand, after spending some time in the United States, I understood why Americans were eating the way they did. They spend a lot of time at work devoting all of their energy and will to completing tasks as well as possible. They are very hard-working professionals; which is why when they get back home they feel like resting. That is why they hardly ever cook and find it much more convenient to eat fast food because it does not take a lot of time and money.
The way Americans value time also surprised me, but it was rather a positive surprise. Americans are always on time, they are very punctual and organized. If they promise to come at a certain time, they will definitely do it. Americans value their own time as well as the time of the others; that is why it is easy to deal with such people. Knowing that Americans say “no” when they do not like something, and their devotion to working as well as accuracy and punctuality, I came to appreciate and truly value these traits because they were very good for effective communication.
Nevertheless, I can tell that despite many difficulties and bumps on the road during my visit to America, I began to understand Americans and value their lifestyle. I realized that I was acting the same way they did because I became so adjusted to these actions. I also realized that I was often exaggerating negative aspects of this culture while comparing it to my own because I had a hard time fitting in during the first period of the visit, but after I had learned new ways, I became really adjusted to them. That is why I can tell that I overcame my culture shock almost painlessly. I can add even more that the hardest part was to readjust to my homeland lifestyle again because I have grown so fond of the American lifestyle. It is something that many people face; at first, they cannot adapt to a new country, but then, they adjust to it so much that they have a hard time coming back home (Szabo, 2012).
I can add that I took many steps in order to deal with my culture shock. I was trying to do my best and enjoy the time which was why I did not want to be negative and miserable because of the necessity to adjust to a new way of life. That was why I organized myself and started looking at things from a positive perspective which allowed me to accept new things and open up to the new society. I was interacting with many locals and trying to make as many friends as possible; I was devoting my time to interesting things which were traditional for Americans but new for me. I was asking many questions in order to understand Americans better, and at the same time, I was eager to speak about my native country whenever I was asked to do so. I was also exploring a lot and devoted my time to many interesting tasks which needed energy and motivation. These ways of dealing with culture shock are quite common, and they effectively help many people which is why it is practical to use them not only in a new country but also while dealing with other types of culture shock (Orenstein, 2012).
That is why I can tell that culture shock is a tough state of mind, but it can be fixed by opening one’s personality and accepting new things. A person should always respect other cultures and worldviews, and such things would allow him or her to appreciate new countries and new people. That is something that I did by adapting myself to the new country. I enjoyed communicating with Americans, and I found that we were not that different. After all, people can always come to a mutual understanding despite different backgrounds which is why it is important to be open and communicable.