Culture Shock

What To Expect And How To Minimize It


Culture shock is exactly what the name implies. It is an emotional shock induced by finding yourself in an unfamiliar situation, dealing frequently or even constantly with behavior patterns you may find strange, unusual, offensive or even immoral by the standards and values you are used to.

Nothing is familiar anymore. People drive on the wrong side of the road. The beer is warm. The food tastes awful, and you don't dare eat it or drink the water. The people don't understand you and you don't understand them. The stores are full of stuff you wouldn't dream of buying, and when you need something, you can't find it. People speak in a strange language and you can't understand a word, and they can't understand you. Their idea of fun is not your idea of fun - you're bored to death and there is nothing to do, nothing! You offend them at every turn, and they offend you. And there's no one to talk to. How on earth will you ever adjust?

There are a few values, expectations and behaviors that you will have to consciously adjust or change in order to fit in, and a lot of expectations of your own that you need to change to avoid getting upset needlessly. Here is some golden advice from expats who have lived abroad for many years that will help you overcome your culture shock:

Culture shock is going to be your biggest problem by far. Get the book from the resources below for the countries you are considering, and read up and learn about what you are letting yourself in for. It may be overwhelming, but knowing some of the local tricks - and sensitivities - can help you out a lot. That is why the resources below are so important.

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Recommended Books



The Ugly American by William Lederer is a classic American novel, published in 1958, and warning Americans about the consequences of their behavior abroad. It is a serious warning about what ignorance of foreign cultural values can lead to. Set at the height of the cold war, the premise is dated, but the theme is as fresh as ever - and that is why it is still very deservedly used as a text in university classes on American foreign policy.

Beautifying the Ugly American: How to Understand the Culturally Different -- Arabs to Zulus by Don E. Post, is as good a general antidote to the "Ugly American" syndrome as you can find in one single book - it is enormously helpful in decoding the mysteries of any foreign culture, particularly for those trying live or do business abroad.

To get the "Culture Shock" guide for the country you need, type the phrase, "Culture Shock +CountryX" in the search window above, without the quotes, and the name of the country you want to search for replacing CountryX, of course.


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