Culture Shock!

Hi everyone, my name’s Andrew. I’ve written up a little article about culture shock and thought that some people going to another country to teach English might enjoy it, and perhaps get some use from it. Here goes:

Welcome to your new country. You’ve come here for fun, excitement, change, challenge, and perhaps money. Will the locals speak your language? I’m not trying to scare you, but perhaps they won’t. Will some people there speak your language, oh most definitely. This is only one of the things that you may have to think about when you plan on going to a new country.
Culture shock is an interesting phenomenon that doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Some just can’t understand it when the locals don’t speak English. Some can’t comprehend why there aren’t any English signs anywhere to be found. Why are things done this way, and not that way? Why am I even in this situation? It would never happen in my home country. Questions like these can cause people to get stressed out and want to go back to their own countries. People can get frustrated when faced with change. Many people deal with it their own way, head back home.
In 1998, I traveled to Taiwan. I never once felt that I suffered from culture shock, personally. I always felt it was more like culture fascination rather than culture shock. I was amazed with everything that I saw and encountered. But I still had many questions. For instance, why aren’t there English street signs on the corner of every intersection? I felt that they would be very helpful for me and also for other people from English speaking countries. What I didn’t think about was that the people that live there can read the signs just fine, and it certainly isn’t necessary for them to change them all just for me. A friend of mine had a girlfriend that hated everything about Taiwan and couldn’t understand why it was different from her home in San Francisco. She hated the people, hated the food, hated the smells, hated the transportation, all because it was different from San Francisco. I asked her if she hated everything so much, why doesn’t she just leave. I cared about Taiwan and its people and to be completely honest, I didn’t want to hear any more of her complaining. She ended up leaving eventually, but after many more complaints. This is what happens to some people, they can’t adjust to their new environment properly.
Others suffer from a much more realistic and understandable reason, homesickness. It’s easy to miss your family, your friends, and your familiar stomping grounds. For people that decide to go overseas, they have to stay focused, enjoy themselves, and be strong. Yes, this new place isn’t like home. Yes, this new place is strange and different. No, your friends and family aren’t here. This was one of the biggest challenges that I had ever faced and I thrived on it.
Another factor involved can be diet. The foods that you’re used to eating may not be available in this new location. You may have to actually try something different. Believe me, this is a good thing. Trying new things will also be a test for you. Try the food that the locals eat everyday. It’s obviously not bad for you, or these people wouldn’t be eating it themselves. I have to laugh to myself when I hear about people going to Taiwan and eating McDonald’s all the time.
The culture in your new destination will obviously be different when compared to where you’re from. Things they say and do will most likely also be different. When I was in Taiwan, it was generally accepted for people to ask others how much money they made. In Canada, this is just an awkward question that is rarely asked, even amongst close friends. Actually, now that I think back to that time, I felt uncomfortable every single time I was asked my rate of pay. I was asked quite frequently and I never actually gave up that information to my inquisitors.
As I mentioned previously, culture shock affects different people different ways. I knew a guy who went to Taiwan; he was originally planning on staying for a year. He lasted 5 days. In my opinion, this small amount of time is not enough to give a fair evaluation of the country. But that’s me, and that was his decision, not mine. I just goes to show you that people are different. Don’t be worried about how culture shock is going to affect you, just buy a book and read a bit about your destination. Nothing will totally prepare you for what you’re about to discover. Enjoy yourself and make the absolute most of your experience. Don’t fear culture shock, embrace it.

Hi Andrew!

Your topic came at the right time for me. You brought up plenty of interesting Questions.Let me explain:
Actually i?ve got a job offering from Bavaria! Not straight an offering but there is an employer who shows interests in me. The duties sound interesting and particularly the rate of pay is great. In spite of nothing is decided i hesitate to contact the employer still. Of course, it is a distance of about 600 kilomtres only and not Taiwan or South Afrika or even Nowosibirsk. But there is a difficulty that might be a German one or ist it only mine? I don?t know. However, although i?m capable to survive the culture shock that i could suffer between Bavaria and NRW :wink: I?m married. Not the way Al Bundy is married but i am! My wife earns her life quite near from our residence of today and she loves her job. You can imagine it is a right misery!
Like you mentioned the seperation from your family is one aspect when you will go abroad and i think it is the most important.
Every else changings you can learn to handle with having a little patience and finally embrace and even enjoy it.

Kind regards


Hi Michael,

I was just thinking about what a sad situation you’re in. (Although it’s not all that bad) :slight_smile: You’d like to travel and take this new job, but seriously, if your wife is happy with her job, then you should stay with her. Sacrifice your curiousity, and stay put. The great thing that you have to be thankful for is you can be together with your wife. There are many people out there that cannot be together with their loved ones, so if we are fortunate to have our loves right beside us, then we should wake up and appreciate that fact.

Nice chatting with you!

Hi Andrew!

Thanks for Your answer and advice! I think You ?re certainly right with Your opinion and the intrinsic misery for me isn?t that i?m married (I love my wife) or that there is an employer interested in me ( it gives some satisfaction ). The intrinsic misery is that there is an angel at my right side and a devil at my left. And every of them both is trying to push me at his side. At least for a while they will do that and the longer I hesitate for so weaker the devil will become, whatever its opinion is? But this isn?t a decision! I think i?ll go to inform me about the job at least.
Like You mentioned in Your topic: if anyone is thinking about a change of his residence, although it would be only for a while, he/she has to inform him-/herself about the possibilities which there are!

Thanks for the flowers, I give some others back to You!


Thanks Michael,

Ignore the devil and listen to the angel… :lol:

Good luck to you and your wife! I hope everything works out great for you.

Does anyone else have any experiences of culture shock that they’d like to share? :?

How would you call the opposite of culture shock (culture revelation?), because this is what I’ve almost always experienced whenever I’ve lived abroad or visited unknown countries. When I found myself living in Munich or in London at 18 and 20 respectively, I enjoyed the experience to the full, from the different language (I was there to improve it, after all), to the different customs, food, way of life… all the cultural differences, in fact. Of course, Europe is Europe and, having gone to those countries from Switzerland, it wasn’t as if I had moved to a completely different environment. Also, I must say that I was very lucky with the families I was staying with (and I still keep in touch with them).

Now, it may seem paradoxical, but when I first came to live in Spain, I went through a relatively long stage of culture adjustment. I think I had idealized the country I was born in and only knew vaguely through my parents’ memories and from a few summer holidays. At first, I kept comparing it to the other countries I’d been to, which is probably inevitable, but only renders matters worse. It has to be said (and not just in passing) that Spain has come a long way since then (1978) – in almost thirty years of democracy! Eventually, I adjusted to the Spanish way and now I don’t think I would prefer to live in Switzerland, though I wouldn’t mind if I had to live in a foreign country again.

Whether culture shock or culture revelation, I would have missed out on so many things (though I might have been just as happy) had I always stayed in the same old place.

PS: Andrew, I always read your articles with interest. :slight_smile:

Hi Andrew!

It?s me again! As I was trying to improve my English skills I didn?t have a look to the intentions you have had writing this topic. I think it?s your right to advertise whereever you have a chance to do it. Now, as i had a look at your website I think it is interesting for a special kind of clients. As intereresting as it is I have a point to criticize. Because I use a 17" Monitor I find the letters at your site a bit to small although I took my glasses to read them. :shock: :wink:



I have a friend who has been studied in German for 1 year. After her coming back, she found it is very difficulty to accustom her to the life in being. She met a lot of difficulties. Fortunately, after taking advice from many professors, she get used to the life here now. However, it took her almost half a year. SO , I was wondering it there any method which can help us soon conquer the culture shock and adopt to the normal life. :smiley:
thank you .
zxlair, BEijing.

Your friend’s problem is called “reverse culture shock”. Usually the shock of coming home is more difficult than the shock of going abroad. It took me about eight months to get used to my own culture again (although a lot of it still doesn’t make any sense to me anymore).

When I first came home, I visited my brother and his wife, and they were shocked to see me washing my socks and underwear in the bathtub only a short distance from the washing machine.

I had trouble figuring out how old people were, because people in the foreign country I lived with were better educated and more emotionally mature at an earlier age, so when I met a 25-year-old in my country, I thought he or she was 17 or 18. Meanwhile, when people in my foreign country passed the age of 35, they often looked to me like Americans in their early 50s, so when I got home, I thought people in their 50s were in their 30s.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people who have come home from a long stay abroad immediately try to go back with the boyfriend or girlfriend they broke up with before they left, but the boyfriend or girlfriend usually is not interested.

Also, people at home don’t understand the importance of the change in you, and they don’t have the patience to listen to a lot of it.

The only advice I would give is that the person should go back to a normal, regular routine as quickly as possible. And he shouldn’t expect people to understand him. Just treat the whole “coming home” experience as if he were going to a new country.

A good book on this problem of readjusting to one’s own country is “The Art of Coming Home” by Craig Storti. I think everybody who moves back home from a long stay abroad should read it.

Yes, I agree with you here Jamie, but I don’t feel that it’s important for others to notice a change in yourself. I feel the most important thing is for you to notice any changes that have come about in yourself. Don’t worry too much about what others think or their patience in listening to you. If someone shows that they don’t have the patience to listen to you, then I wouldn’t continue talking to this person about that topic.

When I came back to Canada, I found myself with this “reverse culture shock”. I felt that life had slowed down to almost a stand-still. There was absolutely nothing to do for fun anymore, no more great interesting foods, no more weird smells, and no more sardine-packed buses. I wanted so badly to head back to Taiwan, but I stuck it out. As Jamie mentioned, just get back into a regular routine and all will eventually be fine.

Lastly, to Michael, Fan of Arabian Horses,
I’ll try to make the letters appear larger on my website, so you won’t need those glasses. :lol: :shock: