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Culture Shock: Adjusting to a New Environment
Study Abroad: Is it Right for You?

Online Degrees: Advantages and Disadvantages

Culture Shock: Adjusting to a New Environment

Online ESL Study: Preparing Before You Go?

ESL Study Programs: Picking the Ideal School

Scholarships: Do I Qualify?

TOEFL Preparation: How and Why?

Homestay: What Can I Expect?

International Health Insurance: Do I Really Need It?

Culture Shock 2: Returning Home


You might have heard of the expression, culture shock, at some point, but understanding it and how it can affect your study abroad can determine whether you have a positive experience. Basically, culture shock is the feeling you have---one of confusion, bewilderment, and anxiety---when you encounter situations where the cultural norms in your culture or society no longer apply.

Let me give you an example. Years ago when I first went to Japan, I had the shock of my life at a public bath. As you might know, people bathe in a shower area and then get into a large hot bath without any clothing or bathing suit on. At the end of my bath, I was greeted by an elderly woman cleaning the men's dressing room. Since you would never encounter such a situation in my culture, the discrepancy between my culture and my experience in Japan conflicted with my expectations, and thus, I felt very out of place. From my perspective, she shouldn't have been there, and at the least, she could have waited until I was completely dressed. This is one example of culture shock.

Now, culture shock is a very natural occurrence, so no one should feel embarrassed that they have had such uncomfortable feelings. However, how you cope with such situations will determine how successful your overseas experience will be, particularly when you are trying to get an education at the same time.

Probably, the best thing to do is to be open to differences and flexible to change. Differences are not good or bad, but just different, and accepting the fact that people do things differently is the first step to understanding culture shock. Be willing to try new things and avoid criticizing others. By doing this, you'll be able to adjust to any new environment.

Randall's articles on this site reflect his own personal perspectives and opinions, and these ideas do not constitute an endorsement for any specific organization or Website.

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Pronunciation Point:

Notice how have is reduced to of when used with modals of past obligation and speculation (e.g., might have, could have, may have, should have, ought to have).

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