Culture Shock

"Culture Shock" is the term used to describe the psychological effects of being immersed in a new culture. The process of adjusting to a new culture, language, and new ways of doing things can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, it can also be frustrating at times.Though every person’s experience is different, most people go through an adjustment process that takes six months to a year. Awareness of this process can help you understand your own feelings as well as those of your friends, making adjustment easier. The phases of Culture Shock are different for each person. Some people experience these stages in different degrees and some may take much longer to get through the process than others. The 4 stages can be described as:

Cultural Euphoria:

Takes place right after arriving in the new country; things that are new and different are viewed positively. You generally feel excited and enthusiastic.

Cultural Confrontation:

You slowly begin to feel that you do not “belong” or that you are an “outsider.” Differences stand out that cause misunderstandings and feelings of alienation. At this stage, you may be very critical of the new culture and have feelings of depression.

Cultural Adjustment:

Interest in and sensitivity towards the new culture and people emerge. You begin to feel more comfortable, and the ability to joke about new experiences and difficulties returns.

Cultural Adaptation:

A meaningful understanding of the new environment occurs. You will stop assessing the new culture by using your own culture as a model and accept the culture and people for who and what they are…not better or worse, just different. You begin to feel a sense of belonging or “being at home” in the host culture.


How to Adjust to a New Environment

The following are some suggestions of things to do if you feel particularly anxious, confused, or discouraged:

  • Eat and sleep at regularly scheduled hours.
  • Exercise.
  • Do something you enjoy like going to the movies, the zoo, a museum, etc.
  • Join a club or group on or off campus. Do not isolate yourself. 
  • Take advantage of the support services available to Edgewood students. If you feel depressed for more than two or three weeks, schedule an appointment with a counselor in the Personal Counseling Office or with someone in the Center for Global Education.
  • Communicate with your family back home about your "new life" in the U.S.

REMEMBER: Although schoolwork and improving English are important, it is also important to take care of yourself! You will not be able to do your schoolwork efficiently if you don't feel well. If you feel like you are not adjusting well to U.S. culture or to Edgewood, please use the Center for Global Education as a resource to assist you through this transition period. We are here to help!