Cultural Shock

As I have gotten older, I have experienced many instances of cultural shock. Some have been smaller such as meeting my friend’s Filipino family for the first time. Some have been much greater such as the first time I went to Europe.  In “Transistion Shock: Putting Culture Shock in Perspective”, Janet Bennet talks about all the different types of culture shock that people can experience. Much of what he said brought me back to my first time to Europe.

I traveled to several countries in Europe last summer; Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. By far, the country where I experienced the most culture shock was France. Maybe this was just because it was the first country I traveled to or it was the extreme difference in language, but it was a very hard adjustment to make. Like Bennett said in his article, many people often feel hopeless when they travel to a different country. That’s exactly how I felt for most of my trip. I had trouble communicating with the natives so I couldn’t ask for directions to the bathroom and I didn’t know some words on menus or signs on the wall. Luckily I was with my family who helped me find my way around. We also had access to a tour guide who spoke basic Italian so he was able to help us around. As the weeks went on, I felt a lot more comfortable in my surroundings and was able to order basic drinks and food off a menu. I learned how to say basic sayings like “Thank You” and “Wheres the bathroom?”

According to Bennet, there are three stages that occur to you when you experience culture shock. Fight,flight and filter. The fight stage is what happened to me when I first arrived in France. It is when the traveler’s guard is up and they are very shy of their surroundings. The next stage, flight is what happened to me about 24 hours after I arrived in France. It is when the traveler is so overwhelmed with what they got themselves into and they often feel very lost. For a moment, I felt as if I wanted to go back home to America becuase I thought there was no way that I was going to be able to feel comfortable. The last stage, filter, is when the person finally starts to adjust to their new surroundings. This actually happened to me the last couple days of my trip. I was finally starting to feel like I was grasping the culture and language differences.

2 thoughts on “Cultural Shock

  1. One of the things that worries me most about going abroad is feeling hopeless because of the language barrier as you described. However, I feel like it will get easier with time just as it did with your experience.

  2. When you reflected on your experiences abroad, it makes me wonder how it will be like for people who are planning to study abroad. I definitely think it’ll take time and an open mind to filter, and that the ability to adapt is crucial being abroad.

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