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Cultural Shock

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Cultural shock is neither a medical condition nor a clinical term but the concept is a merely a common way of describing the nervous and confusing feelings that an individual may experience if they leave a familiar environment or culture for some other different and new culture/ living conditions (Kingsley, 2009). Moving to a new location exposes people to a lot of changes which can be stimulating and exciting, however it can be at times overwhelming as one may feel frustrated, sad, and anxious and wish for going back home. Adjusting to new culture is often difficult due to new people having grown up with different beliefs and values hence their topics of discussion, their modes of expression and how they prioritize various ideas may be unusual to the visitor.

This concept is related to health because it is simply the psychological disorientation among people in new environments and negatively impacts the psychological health of an individual. It closely relates an individual’s psychology to emotional response associated with it and leads to stress. There is normally emotional discomfort and psychological confusion that result to immense psychological stress with symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and a helplessness feeling.  It is this psychological disorientation that links it to health (Xia, 2009).

Analyze and Discuss the Concept of Cultural Shock. Causes of cultural shock. As already discussed above, cultural shock is brought about by a change in cultural environment that could a result of going oversees to visit friends, as a tourist, to study, occupation among other reasons. The concept of culture is vague because it encompasses a lot of things such as customs, traditions, values, sight, sound, smell and thinking manner which are frequently different from one country to another. Communication is very important and its modes also vary from one society to another, for instance the use of non-verbal language like facial expression and body language is quite different in most parts of the world and could also aggravate the culture shock (Na, 2009). Most importantly it should be noted that all may encounter culture shock when exposed to circumstances different from their previous cultural situations.

Symptoms of cultural shock. Although all people undergo culture shock when they travel abroad, the rate of reactions greatly varies among them. There are those who experience much less reactions and others much stronger. This is manifested through various symptoms similar to some medical conditions such as depression although it is not one because it does not last for ever. The symptoms include:  melancholy, sadness and loneliness, being preoccupied with health (multiple system grievances), a desire to sleep too little or too much (insomnia), temperament changes with sometimes feeling vulnerable and powerless (Kingsley, 2009). Some people feel angry, irritated and unwilling to interact with other people. Loss of identity is quite often as one feels out of place and insecure, inability of solving simple problems is also associated with this. Most people also experience lack of confidence, development of obsessions, stereotypes concerning the new culture and longing to go back home. The symptoms are not limited to this list only as there are a couple others.

Stages of cultural shock. According to psychologists, there are four main stages of cultural shock. The first one is the honeymoon (tourist) phase which lasts for about six initial months and the visitor usually is excited about the new place. Secondly it is the emptiness (rejection) phase where the visitor starts having problems with transport, food and communication and they start feel like people no longer care for them (Na, 2009). The conformist phase follows which is characterized by understanding the values and ideals of the new culture with a new feeling of pleasure and humor. Finally there is the assimilation (complete adjustment) phase the foreigners accept drinks, food, customs and habits of the host country and may prefer some things here to their own country.

Minimizing the Cultural shock. Kingsley (2009) observes that there are various ways that individuals can use to minimize cultural shock including moving as a group, learning about the new culture prior to the visit, having a positive attitude towards the move, settling as quick as possible, being open to new ways, being patient, developing a hobby, learning things like language and local cooking, sustain contact with your home country, mounting contact with the new culture among other things. These are some of the various ways that one can use to confront impediments in the new environment.

Reflection on implications of the link between health and the concept of cultural shock for you as a health professional

The concept of cultural shock can have a devastating effect on the psychological health of the visitor. My concern is majorly on the negative impact cultural shock brings about. I have witnessed many cases of stress being brought about by the shock because when individuals experience a new culture and consequently the cultural shock, unfamiliarity and variation affects their own psychological changes and participation in a cultural surrounding. According to Xia (2009), the involved psychological uncertainty and emotional distress results to immense levels of psychological stress as already mentioned earlier in the discussion.

My important observation is that the negative effect of cultural shock on psychology of an individual in many occasions manifests through a huge and diverse set of symptoms even though not all people will encounter all of them but at least part of them. As I already stated earlier on, the main symptoms may be illustrated as helplessness, anxiety and depression (Xia, 2009). The accumulation of the feeling of helplessness, anxiety and depression will increase the extent and degree of psychological incomprehension making it deeper and deeper hence making it difficult for someone to pay attention and learn the new culture. Additionally, the psychological disorientation can inhibit people’s capability to make decisions and solve problems and greatly reduces the morale to the new surrounding.

My additional observation is that when individuals fail to overcome cultural shock symptoms, their probability of becoming hostile to the citizens of the host country is very high. This leads to what I prefer calling “handicap of interpersonal relationship”. It is therefore important for all people who might experience cultural shock to employ various ways available for dealing with helplessness feelings, anxiety and depression. It is therefore my humble appeal to all those who may have plans of traveling abroad to make a lot preparations to reduce the impact of cultural shock (Xia, 2009). 


Due to cultural diversity as a result of globalization, cultural shock is becoming very common through the world. The differences in culture result of unfamiliarity whenever one encounter new culture and consequently there is an occurrence of psychological stress for instance feeling of helplessness, anxiety and stress. This discussion has helped me to learn many things concerning cultural shock, more particular: what the concept really means, its relationship with health, the symptoms linked with, stages it undergoes and most important how to overcome it. I have also come understand that is very important to try and learn cultures of other countries because in this era where the world has become a global village, you never know what will happen next.

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