Think of a time when you may have experienced cultural shock.
How did you react?
How could youhave better anticipated and prevented it?
Is it possible to experience cultural shock by just traveling across the United States?
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This question is a little awkward to think about and answer because culture shock, by definition, involves four stages and covers an extended period of time so cannot be experienced on a brief touring visit. What occurs on a touring visit is more akin to cultural awareness without the "shock" factor. The "shock" in cultural exposure comes when the cultural ways begin to produce anxiety and a disturbing inability to adjust to differences creating a crisis.
This inability to adjust results in varying levels of hostility and rejection of the culture and the people. This eventually leads to a way to accommodate the differences and incorporate the differences into your own sociological understanding; sometimes this takes the form of permanent rejection of and distancing from the culture. The optimum result and opposite of rejection is involvement with the culture and a feeling of belonging.
The phases are characterized by "Excitement and Fascination," "Crisis Period [shock period]," "Adjustment Phase," and "Acceptance and Adaptation Phase." You can see, particularly from the inclusion of a "Crisis Period," that culture shock is not meant to define the momentary disorientation experienced by a visit to a different culture in a different country. And, most certainly, a visitor's cultural awareness or a new resident's culture shock can be experienced by a visit or a move, respectively, to previously unfamiliar parts of one's own country, for example, by a Californian moving to Maine or by a Mainer moving to Georgia.
Culture shock itself is an experience that can be felt with severity during the Crisis Period and requires a significant time period to fulfill because the Crisis Period--which defines the experience as "shock"--doesn't start before the second or third month and may be delayed for up to a year for very optimistic and buoyant individuals.
There's a difference between anticipating culture shock and preventing or reducing it. I think one of the values of traveling and encountering different cultures is the personal growth that comes from working through the culture shock and developing the internal resources to be able to deal with whatever situations you encounter.
You can read and talk to people and research all you want, which will give you some foretaste of what you might encounter. But it's not the same as actually finding yourself surrounded by different smells, hearing a foreign language, seeing people who look and are dressed differently than you, being offered foods that you can't identify!
I experienced a culture shock when my tour group visited England. I think I was at least somewhat prepared for cultural differences. As a group, we did try to anticipate and prepare ourselves for some of those differences. I don't know that one can ever fully prevent culture shock no matter how much preparation is involved. There are always cultural differences that we don't even think about or notice that make a huge impact on visitors. Preparation can help, but it cannot prevent completely. Besides, I think even when you know there are differences coming it is still a new experience.
I experienced a culture shock when I first started teaching. I was from a suburban middle class neighborhood. I was teaching in an urban working class impoverished neighborhood. I was not fully prepared for the differences in culture I experienced.
I agree, though I've not experienced the same type of culture shock described in the first response. There is little way to prepare for the shock that results from the total immersion in a culture that is ultimately foreign to you. You may be able to lessen the shock by learning the language, how to avoid cultural faux pas, and in other ways, but I'm not sure it is possible to completely prepare for your emotional response.
The time I experienced my biggest culture shock was when I came to the United States for college. I was always an American citizen, but I grew up outside the country. I thought I understood American culture, but I didn't. I could not have prepared for it because there is no way to prepare for the emotional impact of being immersed in a strange culture.
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