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TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS: #4 – Develop tolerance for ambiguity and frustration by being flexible and…

TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS by Nexus International School in Malaysia

4. Develop tolerance for ambiguity and frustration by being flexible and open towards the new culture.

Effects of Culture Shock

  • A sense of uprootedness
  • Feeling of disorientation
  • Not knowing what is going on
  • Behaviors and attitudes which were necessary for obtaining goals in the culture we learned are no longer useful
  • Familiar behaviors which marked a well-adjusted person in one’s own culture are now seen as bad manners
  • So many adjustments to be made that one becomes overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry

All these things can lead to you not being the most open-minded towards your host culture and country.  Do we need to go through certain steps until we get to the tolerance that we seek?

Typical Pattern of Culture Shock

  1. At first we think it is charming
  2. Then we think it is evil
  3. Then we think it is different

Almost everyone who studies lives or works abroad experiences some degree of culture shock. This period of cultural adjustment involves everything from getting used to the food and language to learning how to use the telephone. No matter how patient and flexible you are, adjusting to a new culture can, at times, be difficult and frustrating. It is easy to get lost, depressed and homesick. You may even want to go back home!

Don’t panic…these are all totally normal reactions and you are not alone. Sometimes it is hard to remember why you decided to leave home. You are on an adventure – a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn – but it does not always seem that way.  Staring you straight in the eye, you cannot avoid culture shock entirely.

Adjusting to a new culture can be difficult and frustrating, but it can also be a wonderful, thought provoking time of your life during which you will grow as a person. Living in a foreign country will open new doors, introduce you to new ways of thinking, and give you the opportunity to make life-long friends. The most effective way to combat culture shock is to step back from a given event that has bothered you, assess it, and search for an appropriate explanation and response. Try the following:

  • Observe how others are acting in the same situation
  • Describe the situation, what it means to you, and your response to it
  • Ask a local resident or someone with extensive experience how they would have handled the situation
    and what it means in the host culture
  • Plan how you might act in this or similar situations in the future
  • Test the new behavior and evaluate how well it works
  • Decide how you can apply what you have learned the next time you find yourself in a similar situation

Throughout the period of cultural adaptation, take good care of yourself. Read a book or rent a video in your home language, take a short trip if possible, exercise and get plenty of rest, write a letter or telephone home, eat good food, and do things you enjoy with friends. Take special notice of things you enjoy about living in the host culture.

Although it can be disconcerting and a little scary, the “shock” gradually eases as you begin to understand the new culture. It is useful to realize that often the reactions and perceptions of others toward you–and you toward them–are not personal evaluations but are based on a clash of cultural values. The more skilled you become in recognizing how and when cultural values and behaviors are likely to come in conflict, the easier it becomes to make adjustments that can help you avoid serious difficulties.

* Information and excerpts were taken from Julia Ferguson’s website.

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