Culture Shock

Cultural Adjustment

When entering a new culture, an individual is separated from the people and circumstances that define their role in society. It takes time to learn how to get around, do laundry, use the currency, enjoy the food, and become comfortable. It can be exhausting to speak in a second language and to understand the meanings behind spoken and non-verbal language. Cultural differences can produce a sense of insecurity – a loss of identity.

This disorientation is called “culture shock.”

Culture shock can manifest itself in a number of ways: headache, upset stomach, irritability, homesickness, etc. Researchers have defined the stages of adjustment, and the transitions can be complex.

The first step toward making a smooth adjustment is being aware that this is a normal experience that most travelers encounter. See the Stages of Cultural Adjustment.

It is said that the traveler who does not experience culture shock isn’t paying attention!

Dealing with Culture Shock


(Not everyone will experience the same symptoms, at the same time. Culture Shock is not an exact science)

  • Depression
  • Loss or Gain of Weight or Appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Withdrawal from Social Activities
  • Anger over minor frustrations
  • A desire to return home

How to cope with your culture shock

Some people will get over their culture shock in a few weeks; others will take longer to adjust. You may experience culture shock immediately after arriving in the United States, or you may struggle with culture shock later when many small frustrations have built up. We suggest that the best way to deal with culture shock is:

  • Get involved! Participate in activities on campus. Stay busy! Go to class!
  • Socialize with other international students who can understand what you’re going through.
  • Do not withdraw from others and be alone (spending time with other people can help).
  • Spend time with your host family.
  • Talk with someone at the Longbrake Student Wellness Center, or with someone in ISS.
  • Find ways to share your culture with those around you. (If you are not sure how to do this, stop by ISS).
  • Be patient and keep an open mind. You will get through this, and will be amazed what you can achieve!