TEXT 1. A NEW CULTURE. WHAT A SHOCK!
In this week’s article in our series Moving Abroad, Peter Todd tells you to ‘expect the unexpected’ when you arrive in one of those exotic places you’ve always dreamed about. Be prepared for some surprises!
1. What is culture shock exactly? The expression describes the negative feelings that people can have when they move to a new country. They feel unhappy, stressed or lonely, and they often get annoyed about little things (standing in a queue or waiting for a bus). Culture shock can make you sleep a lot or not enough, and even cause headaches.
2. A common cause of culture shock is the language. David, from London, has travelled a lot, but he experienced the biggest culture shock in Japan. ‘Usually you find some things, like signs or maps, in English, but in Japan everything is in Japanese. It was impossible to read a menu or a road sign and very difficult to buy train tickets or food in a supermarket. I felt really isolated.’
3. People can also suffer from culture shock because of different customs. Helen moved to Seville six months ago, to study Spanish. ‘I love living here now, but at first I was impatient because of the way people do things. The pace of life is slower than in England and people go out later in the evening, and eat much later, too. This is because of the wonderful warm climate here: nobody wants to eat a big meal or be outside when it’s too hot!’
4. Another reason for culture shock is people’s reaction to the visitor. This is often because the visitor looks different. Craig lived in Bahrain when he was a teenager. ‘People stared at my pale skin, and they also thought I was special because of my red hair. In Bahrain, men dye their hair red to show that they are very religious.’
5. So, is there a cure for culture shock? Most experts say that it is important to be patient because the feelings do not last forever. Their advice is: try to make friends with the people, read about the new culture, and keep active — don’t sit in your room and do nothing. Go out and enjoy life. What feels like culture shock at first is often a great experience in the end.