Crosscultural Teaching -- Module 6 Dealing with Culture Shock

Uploaded by ipegmarc on 29.07.2011

DEALING WITH CULTURE SHOCK So what were Kohl’s three categories of
culture shock symptoms? Overall symptoms, Withdrawal symptoms and Aggressive symptoms.
A man overcome by exhaustion, one morning kills the village’s rooster, then goes back
to sleep. A teenager refuses to speak the new language
or eat food from the new culture. A woman starts crying when she gets an email
from her home country. So, how can we overcome our culture shock? One idea is to
make friends with someone in the new culture. The problem is that once depression sets in,
it is unlikely we will have the drive to look for friends. In my opinion, people should
be advised to work extra hard at making new friends during the Honeymoon stage because
later it becomes more difficult. Exactly how to make friends in a new country is a strategy
lecture too broad for here. However, two of the most important characteristics about looking
for new friends are 1) being open-minded and 2) being willing to take a risk. Risk-takers
will be much more successful at gaining new friends than risk-avoiders.
Once depression hits, then activities that can be done alone are helpful such as reading
books about the history of the new culture. Learn about some of the heroes and heroines.
Also, walking around your neighborhood is great because it creates endorphins in your
body, the feel good hormones, and it helps you become familiar with the area. I found
that just saying hi to my neighbors as I walked around made me feel a lot better.
When you slide, or if you slide, into more Withdrawal type symptoms, then it is really
important to find someone to talk to that speaks your language. It is never a good idea
to say very critical comments about your host country in front of a host national. Even
if they are a good friend, it will strain the friendship more than is wise. It is the
idea that I can criticize my brother, but if my friend criticizes my brother, I get
angry at my friend. Even when we know our own (host) country is not perfect, we may
get defensive if you start criticizing it too strongly. Therefore, try to find someone
else you can talk to. It can be someone from a different country from you who is also a
stranger to the new culture. If necessary, it can be someone from your home country via
the phone or Skype. I found that it was not necessary for me to think of this person as
a close friend. As long as they were an acquaintance who was willing to listen, healing was happening
for me as I realized bottled up emotions. Another way I got through this stage was by
going to MacDonald’s or a similar restaurant. It wasn’t exactly like MacDonald’s in
the States, but it was close enough to give me comfort.
When the culture shock gets really bad, Aggressive, then it is important to take action. One of
the best options is to write in a journal. There is tons of research on the healthiness
of journal writing. It gives you as safe place to put your emotions. In my opinion, there
are three basic needs for our psychological identity. One is land, as in our “homeland”
or it could be a new adopted homeland. Another is food, you may have heard the term “comfort
food.” What do you want to eat when you are sick? What foods give you comfort? The
third is language. Being able to hear and speak our native language can be like “comfort
food” for our soul. So, if culture shock seems aggressive or strong,
then do whatever you can to experience native land, food, or language. For example, while
MacDonald’s in Japan is a little “Japanized,” the Hard Rock café is not. When I walked
into the Hard Rock café, it was like stepping into the United States. While I suggest speaking
your native language to someone for Withdrawal symptoms, I suggest listening to your native
language for Aggressive symptoms. That is based on my experience. It seemed very tiring
sometimes to hear only Japanese when I understood almost none of it. Mind you, this was before
the spread of the Internet. When I found out that most US movies were just subtitled in
Japanese and still had the audio in English, I was thrilled. It was so exciting for me
to be able to walk into a Japanese video store and rent a movie I could watch and listen
to. I realize you may disagree with the way I
have divided these attempts at overcoming culture shock symptoms. You probably have
your own great ideas. I encourage you to share them with your students.
Awareness is such a large part of successfully navigating the culture shock ride.