Culture Shock

Adjusting to life in a foreign culture is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Identifying and coping with this stress will help you adjust.

Cultural Adjustment

Tips for dealing with stress:

  • Manage your expectations. Remain flexible if something doesn’t go as planned. Remember that things may be handled differently in different cultures.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest.
  • Write in a journal or blog. Getting your thoughts together will help you process them more thoroughly.
  • Ask questions when something is unclear or unusual.
  • Remember that you’re not alone. Keep in touch with family and friends back home, and contact the study abroad team at SLU with concerns.

Culture Shock

Culture shock can take on different forms throughout your time abroad, including one or more of the following stages:

1. Honeymoon stage
  • Elation and excitement
  • Fascination and intrigue
  • Positive feelings about the host culture
2. Negotiation phase
  •  Differences between the two cultures start to create some anxiety and frustration
  • Start to withdraw
  • Begin to criticize or mock host culture
  • Negative feelings about the host culture
3. Adjustment phase
  • Growing comfort with new routines and the new culture
  • Accepting differences
4. Mastery phase/enthusiasm
  • Confidence in your new culture
  • Enjoy the new culture and adopt some of its behaviors 

You might experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout your time abroad. Recognizing the symptoms of culture shock may help you cope appropriately.

  • Sadness, loneliness
  • Preoccupation with your health
  • Aches, pains and allergies
  • Insomnia or a desire to sleep too much
  • Changes in temperament; feeling depressed, vulnerable or powerless
  • Anger, irritability, resentment, unwillingness to interact with others
  • Identifying with the old culture or idealizing the old country
  • Loss of identity
  • Trying too hard to absorb everything in the new culture or country
  • Unable to solve simple problems
  • Lack of confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
  • Developing stereotypes about the new culture
  • Developing obsessions such as over­cleanliness
  • Longing for family/homesickness
  • Feelings of being lost, overlooked, exploited or abused

These feelings are normal and fairly common when traveling, studying, working and living abroad. The study abroad staff is happy to listen and is available via email, phone, Google chat or Skype.