The Culture Shock And Its Effects On Human Behavior

Culture Shock describes a person’s reaction towards being in a culture that is not yet known to them; this reaction is almost always an adverse reaction that can result in mental and physical effects. Culture Shock can affect social and educational relationships, and it has repercussions towards more prominent and more severe situations. The result of Culture Shock can lead to struggles when going back to one’s homeland. The effects of Culture Shock can be a consequence in adverse outcomes for a human’s mental health and physical health.

Culture Shock is not a term used often, but when hearing this word questions might come up. When people first hear about Culture Shock, they might not think much of it, but the effects of this kind of shock can result in serious repercussions. In line with the website InterNations, this phenomenon can generate different feelings and emotions in people, “Culture shock is a rather nerve-wrecking phenomenon, a sense of anxiety, nervousness, and alienation caused by being exposed to an alien environment and culture” (InterNations). This feeling of being alienated in a new country or place is exactly what Culture Shock stemmed off of. When going to a foreign country there might be a language barrier that might cause confusion and frustration, this is explained in an article written by The International Journal- Language Society and Culture the author states that, “As language and culture are closely related, culture can have a great impact on language shock, and this is clearly evidenced from the linguistic aspects and the aspect of sociolinguistic” (InterNations). Culture Shock affects other aspects of communication, and for adolescents, education. According to InterNations, a website to help foreigners start a new life in a new country, Culture Shock is, “a phenomenon that all types of expatriates experience, no matter if they work abroad for the first time or if they are veterans in the field of expat assignments” (InterNations). anyone and any age can experience Culture Shock.

This simple word can cause significant mental effects and illnesses; the stress and anxiety that comes from Culture Shock can derive from cultural differences and language barriers. Culture Shock can come up, “ when a person becomes aware of the differences and/or conflicts in values and customs between their home culture and the new culture they are in. Common feelings may be anxiety, confusion, homesickness, and/or anger” (University of Kansas). These mental illnesses can lead to more grave situations like not eating or sleeping. Going to college or school in a different country for the first time, can make young adults result in severe situations, says an article written by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health the authors says , “...students often experience culture shock that could lead to serious psychosocial difficulties and mental health problems” (H. Hamboyan and A. K. Bryan) .Mental illnesses are more likely to happen in younger children and teenagers because they do not have enough experiences or cultural experience. Most students do not realize what is happening and do not treat their problems correctly the study has shown that ,“Family physicians and other health care workers who have international students as patients should have a thorough understanding of their circumstances in order to manage their health problems effectively.” (H. Hamboyan and A. K. Bryan)

When the human mind is under pressure, there can be many harmful effects, but the outcome can also be positive. The website Refreshed Perspectives explains the pros and cons of experiencing Culture Shock; she lists the not so sound effects which are ,“...Frustration,Feeling isolated and lonely, Homesickness, Idealizing the home country, Unduly criticizing culture of host country, Sadness, Depression, Withdrawal (avoiding contact to host nationals), Sleeping a lot or unable to sleep, Suffering from body aches and pains” (Heike). These listed are both mental and physical effects that can cause a lifestyle to be changed. The author, Heike, also listed many examples of the positive side of Culture Shock, she writes that the,“Good effects- Living in a different culture will give you valuable skills that help you in many aspects of your life and are powerful in aiding your personal journey and development” (Heike). Living in a new country can help cope with the next time someone goes into a foreign country. If someone stays in a place long enough to get over Culture Shock they can see the country in a whole new perspective, Heike has said that Culture Shock can lead to, “Diversity in thinking, in ethnicity, in socio-economic status and in religious believes. You will gain different perspectives” (Heike). Once the shock is over the positive effects will come, yet Culture Shock is a process that not many can overcome or can see through to the positive.

This type of shock can have a bad effect on education and communication causing learning and social interactions to be a struggle. For some of the students that are in a new culture they might feel Culture Shock when they are at their college. Authors Yuefang Zhou, Divya Jindal-Snape, Keith Topping and John Todman wrote in their article about the adaptation of international students in higher education as they introduce this topic they write that, “Students attending universities in a culture different from their own have to contend with novel social and educational organisations, behaviours and expectations – as well as dealing with the problems of adjustment common to students in general”(Yuefang Zhou, Divya Jindal-Snape, Keith Topping and John Todman). These social expectations puts even more pressure on the students even more than behaviour and education expectations. When there is a social situation that someone is put into a culture related environment there is a part of a brain that is triggered and causes communication to become harder. Barna, LaRay M. makes a similar point about how Culture Shock contributes to the struggle of communication in a new place, “ Physiologically, new stimuli that can't be classified signal to the cortex of the brain an alteration in the environment. An orientation response is triggered; extra adrenalins and nonadrenaline pour into the system, general muscle tone rises, pupils of the eyes dilate, sense organs are directed toward the incoming stimuli, and hands sweat. If the tension level is prolonged, fatigue and feelings of anxiety result.” (Barna, LaRay M.). In Kingsley Akarowhe’s article about the Effects and remedies to cultural shock on the adolescent students,infers that adolescent students will not be able to adjust as well as college or adults to the phenomenon, “In school and home communication enhance effective co-existence between student of same age bracket, parents, relation, teachers, and other children. Due to culture shock, the adolescent student tends to experience a defective communication. In other words, he/she faced with the problem of not able to relate with other adolescent students at school and at home.” (Akarowhe Kingsley). Having the pressure of school and social life can slowly drive a person into a state of anxiety and depression. 

When a person lives far away from where they originated, it is hard to go back to their home because of reverse culture shock. As a person emmerges themselves into the culture that is not their own, they slowly forget their culture and fully embrace their new culture. The U.S. Department of State made an article that explains the struggles of immigrants who are going back to their home country, the article describes the situation that could lead to reverse culture shock, “... cross-cultural adaptation stress, change of routine and a lack of familiarity contribute significantly to reverse culture shock. As you've settled into your foreign location (sometimes staying outside the United States for as many as three tours / 8 or 9 years), you've spent less time in your home culture. Upon return, not only is home different from what you are now used to, but it may be different from what it was when you left, and different from what you expect it to be like” (U.S. Department of State). Also in line with the U.S. Department of State reverse culture article a person has to constantly keep up with all the customs, the author describes this specific circumstance, “ - Because many of the routines, patterns and customs of U.S. culture are new to you, you must consciously pay attention to performing basic functions. Add to that the stress of logistical tasks of your return, and you may begin to feel overwhelmed by this experience. Exhaustion is a commonly reported effect of reverse culture shock” (U.S. Government of State). Language is also another factor that contributes to reverse culture shock, because someone who has lived out of their home country for such a long time, might forget some of their first language and not be able to communicate with their family and friends, the authors states, “Language, as an important component of culture, also has a great influence on the intercultural com- petence of international students and any other people who initially moved to another language back- ground. Language is commonly seen as an integral part of culture (Nida, 2003). Nida (2003) argues that factors, such as entities, events, states, process and characteristics of one culture have a strong influence on the content of the language spoken in this culture”. What connects all people is communication through language, and if that connection is broken then there is no relationship. Comment by Kaila Ahmoo:

Unfortunately Culture Shock is a not a well known phenomenon even though it affects many. Mental illness is the main result of Culture Shock that can make a person’s health decrease, these mental health issues can lead to negative effects in education and communication. Living away from where a person originated from for a long time and then going back can be a struggle because things might have changed and is possibly not the same when a person last saw it. Culture Shock can result in negative outcomes for a human’s physical and mental health.

07 July 2022
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