Navigating Culture Shock


Understanding Culture Shock

The first step in navigating culture shock is to recognize what it is. Culture shock is a term used to describe the feelings of dislocation and general unease you may have when you move to a place with an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. Some of its symptoms include:

  • You withdraw or feel isolated from the people around you
  • You develop negative feelings about the people, customs and culture of the country
  • You feel angry, uncomfortable, confused, frustrated or irritable over minor frustrations
  • You develop new sleeping and eating disturbances
Although some students may not be able to completely stop these symptoms from occurring, you can ultimately try to minimize the effects of culture shock. The advisors from the International Service Centre are a helpful resource as they are trained on dealing with adjusting to a new culture and country. Book an appointment with them here!


The Different Stages of Culture Shock

  1. The Honeymoon Stage - The first stage begins when you first move and you are very curious and excited about your new experiences. You feel positive about being in a new culture. At this point, you may feel as if this new and exciting adventure will continue to feel exciting for the rest of your stay.
  2. Irritability and Hostility - At this stage, it may be difficult to communicate effectively due to the exhaustion of not comprehending the culture and language. As a result, people can feel overwhelmed by the realization that this is your new life and can lead to feelings of sadness, uncertainty, doubt, anxiety, frustration and even anger. You attribute your new dissatisfaction to the unfamiliar culture rather than the adaptation process.
  3. Gradual Adjustment - At this stage, you begin to feel more relaxed and develop more familiarity with the language, culture and people. Life becomes easier at this stage as you further develop friendships and support networks.
  4. Acceptance and Integration - In this stage, you feel a new strong sense of belonging and no longer feel isolated from others. This stage does not mean that you have completely learned everything there is to know about the culture and norms, but instead realize that total understanding is not necessary to thrive and succeed in your new home.

Tips on Dealing With Culture Shock

Maintain contact with family and friends back home. Through staying in touch with friends or family, you can help alleviate some of the homesickness while also being able to receive support throughout this long process.

Ask questions. If you find yourself confused about something, don’t be afraid to ask! Most people will be accommodating when you show genuine interest in their customs and traditions.

Develop friendships with Canadian and International students. Getting to know other Canadian students can help get a sense of the local norms and behaviours. Additionally, you can also meet other international students who have likely gone through similar experiences as you. Check out a variety of student groups at BearsDen!

Take care of yourself. Finding ways to relieve stress and take care of yourself are important! Exploring new hobbies or joining student groups, as well as eating well, exercising regularly and also sleeping for 7 hours or more every night can help.