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Culture Shock

Jun 11, 2019 | 0 comments

Jun 11, 2019 | Essays | 0 comments

Culture Shock Experience


Culture shock is a condition that confuses when exposed to an alien culture. Culture shock comes in the first steps of exposure. In the past decade, students have gotten chances to pursue education beyond the American borders. This is what caused my early exposure to culture shock. Recently, I had the chance to visit Dubai, a country whose culture is not only rich it is also quite elaborate. Despite continued exposure to American soldiers and humanitarians, the Muslim culture in this society has persisted. One of the main foundations of my culture shock was gender relations and regulations. IN America, people of different genders can not only walk together, they can converse and pass information willingly. However, in the United Arab Emirates, such behavior would cause imminent disaster causing severe punishment on the offenders. Surprisingly, even though it may be the males who brought unwarranted behavior, it is often the woman who is punished.

Secondly, another aspect of the culture that may cause severe shock is regarding toilet manners and use. While in America, toilets are mostly modern and comfortable. In this country, the majority of the toilets found in homes are known as squatting toilets. Also, while in most homes in America Tissue is a basic necessity. In Dubai, most homes have a strong distaste for the use of tissue. Instead after toilet use, one is required to clean themselves using running water. This may require some getting used to avoid constantly changing clothes and embarrassing situations, especially when visiting private homes.

Cultural learning: according to this theory, the basis of culture shock is a learning experience. When exposed to a new culture, they begin developing new experiences and learning from the same experiences. Whereas when individuals are faced with new experiences, the basic tendency is to continually avoid situations in which they are likely to encounter new behavior, it is vital to constantly expose oneself to such experiences so that they learn and adapt (Chiu et al. 2013). In his study, Durham (7) found that for example individuals who move from the United States to Asian countries, often avoid traditional restaurants in favor of the much common fast food. According to, Wilson et al. (911), the process of adapting is influenced by various factors including the general knowledge (learning ability) of the new culture, quality of contact with the hosts in the new countries, previous experiences in other cultures (abroad whether learning, short term or long term) and the ability to build networks in the new culture.

Social identification: during interaction with new cultures, individuals begin to see themselves from a new perspective. While previously the same individuals have often thought of themselves as competent, in a new culture they are now just a small fish. Take for example my experience in Dubai. Everyone dresses differently, eats differently, and even behaves in a different manner. As such, even though in my country am considered an average individual, lacking any special skills in Dubai I am not only foreign but one whose behavior has to be explained and sometimes forgiven. Zhou et al. (68) indicate that remaining in denial, forcing previous behavior, and ignoring experiences that would bring about a new culture, only makes learning quite difficult. However, exposing oneself to new cultures, experiences, and immersing yourself in the new culture makes it easy to adapt to the new culture. Such exposure is an attempt to redefine yourself and create a new self-identification.

Symbolic interactionism: culture is defined by the way people relate to each other. Face to face interactions helps members of a society disseminate the culture. Therefore, when exposed to new cultures people interact and maintain their culture by learning new experiences through interaction with hosts (Lin 129). The best way to learn and motivate oneself to adapt is by constantly interacting with the new culture. In Dubai for example, there are several tourist spots which focus on teaching new culture and exposing visitors to authentic Arabic culture. Tour guides are natives and there are several native restaurants all of which allow the individual to learn more about the new culture. Every object in the new culture and every action represents a new learning opportunity because each of them represents a new experience from the native culture. In essence, culture is dynamic, therefore we can constantly develop the ability to learn and make new experiences, thus despite the culture shock, we can easily learn and adapt. Symbolic interactionism also calls for the use of the symbols to understand the new culture. For example, the use of chop sticks to eat food in china and making use of the traditional Arabic toilet rather than modern toilets. Symbols allow us to understand the value of the culture as well as the historical significance that such actions have had on culture, making it easy to adapt to and even maintain.

Thesis: shock requires adaptation to new stimuli which advances the ability to adapt to new social situations.


Chiu, Chi-Yue, et al. “Cross-cultural competence: Theory, research, and application.” (2013): 843-848.

Furham, Adrian. “Culture shock.” Revista de Psicologéa de la Educación 7 (2012).

Lin, Canchu. “”Culture shock and social support: An investigation of a Chinese student organization on a US campus.” Journal of Intercultural Communication Research35.2 (2006): 117-137.

Wilson, Jessie, Colleen Ward, and Ronald Fischer. “Beyond culture learning theory: What can personality tell us about cultural competence?.” Journal of cross-cultural psychology44.6 (2013): 900-927.

Zhou, Yuefang, et al. “Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education.” Studies in higher education 33.1 (2008): 63-75.

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