Culture shock is caused by many things, all of which we can classify into three categories: social interaction, physical environment, and differences in attitudes and expectations.
Unfamiliar ‘rules’ for social interaction
These are the strange, new ways you are expected to communicate with others. Few of these ‘rules’ are explicitly taught. Instead, they are implied and subtle, making them difficult to learn.
– How you greet people
– Body language cues
– Facial expressions
– Unfamiliar gestures
– Language barrier
Your physical space has a strong effect on your body and mind. These are the differences in infrastructure, urban areas, and even the climate and temperature.
– Level of noise. For example, moving from countryside quiet to the constant aural barrage of city noise.
– The cleanliness of the indoor and outdoor spaces
– Adequacy of lavatories
– Novel foods, tastes, drinks, and produce, as well as food quality.
– Differences in climate. A sharp change in altitude or temperature can be very jarring to the body, making it difficult to adjust.
Differences in attitudes or expectations
Culture is heavily defined by the views and perspectives of the collective. These can be very different from those that you’re used to.
– Clothing standards. For example, expectations for how women should dress in a Muslim country
– Attitudes to time. Latin, African, and Caribbean countries are infamous for their relaxed attitudes to timeliness and appointments.
– Differences in general mood, cheerfulness, openness to strangers
– General values held on relationships, gender, race, and religion. For example, moving from a diverse city to a mono-religious rural community.
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