Culture shock

What does culture shock mean? It is the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one which is unfamiliar. It is something that all types of expatriates experience. If you are going to study abroad you will experience it as well because people need time to find their feet in a new place.

There are more elements that can contribute to culture shock:

  • You could find the British food strange for the first time. New ingredients, new spices, new tastes.
  • If you are living in a foreign country, at the beginning you will have difficulties with the language even if you are a fluent speaker. People may use other accent and are speaking faster and you will discover that it is more tiring to listen and understand things in a foreign language.
  • Depending on which country you are from, the British weather could be depressing for you as the number of rainy days is relative high in a year. However there are some beautiful, sunny days as well you can enjoy during the summer.
  • Social roles. In the UK you may experience social behaviour that is strange for you because of the cultural differences. E.g. if you are coming from southern Europe you may find people here distant.
  • Depending on the weather of your home country you may find it strange that you have to wear winter clothing for a longer time here.
  • You may come to notice that people from other cultures have different views of the world that could be surprising for you.
  • There are unspoken rules in cultures that could be different from yours. For example in the UK people always say thank you to the bus driver when they take off. In other countries people even don’t say hello to the driver.

The process of the culture shock has usually 4 stages:

  1. Honeymoon

When you arrive to the UK you will be very excited, you will learn a lot of new things and you will be very busy with it. You will enjoy the first period of your time here and have fun.

  1. Crisis

The second stage is the crisis when people reject the new culture and have difficulties with adapting it. They focus first of all on negatives and are missing their home.

  1. Adjustment

In the period of adjustment people start to enjoy the new environment and lifestyle. They become ready to accept the situation.

  1. Acceptance

People accept the new culture and they start to feel comfortable in their new home.

It depends on the personality how people experience the culture shock. You can minimize the effects if you learn more about the country, the culture and the cuisine in advance. When you are already in the new place it is important to be curious about the people and environment, speak with the people and keep an open mind.

If you find it hard to settle in you can always turn to your International Student Support Officer or to the Student’s Union. They will be happy to help you and will give support.