when stepping into a new country, we will find eveything seems to be foreign to us. we know it is not our own country and we are supposed to accept and adapt. It is, however, amazing that when returning to homecountry, we get into the same situation where we make more comparision. Technically, we call them culture shock and reverse culture shock.
when in DC this May, we got the rough idea about it and maybe took it for granted that we would survive, for we were the native and master when returning home and it was none of our business. Actually, it is our business. or maybe you can take it as the topic of your research. I read this article on culture shock and reverse culture shock, and share this with you guys. hopefully, it will give you some inspiration and enlightment for your different experience.
Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, or to a move between social environments.
One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign country. Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of five distinct phases: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, Mastery and the interdependence. There is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently.
The four phases
During this period, the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light. For example, in moving to a new country, an individual might love the new food, the pace of life, and the locals' habits. During the first few weeks, most people are fascinated by the new culture. They associate with nationals who speak their language, and who are polite to the foreigners. This period is full of observations and new discoveries. Like most honeymoon periods, this stage eventually ends.
After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. Excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one's cultural attitude. Language barriers, stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, food accessibility and quality may heighten the sense of disconnection from the surroundings
While being transferred into a different environment puts special pressure on communication skills, there are practical difficulties to overcome, such as circadian rhythm disruption that often leads to insomnia and daylight drowsiness; adaptation of gut flora to different bacteria levels and concentrations in food and water; difficulty in seeking treatment for illness, as medicines may have different names from the native country's and the same active ingredients might be hard to recognize.
Still, the most important change in the period is communication: People adjusting to a new culture often feel lonely and homesick because they are not yet used to the new environment and meet people with whom they are not familiar every day. The language barrier may become a major obstacle in creating new relationships: special attention must be paid to one's and others' culture-specific body language signs, linguistic faux pas, conversation tone, linguistic nuances and customs, and false friends.
In the case of students studying abroad, some develop additional symptoms of loneliness that ultimately affect their lifestyles as a whole. Due to the strain of living in a different country without parental support, international students often feel anxious and feel more pressure while adjusting to new cultures—even more so when the cultural distances are wide, as patterns of logic and speech are different and a special emphasis is put on rhetoric.
Again, after some time (usually 6 to 12 months), one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines. One knows what to expect in most situations and the host country no longer feels all that new. One becomes concerned with basic living again, and things become more "normal". One starts to develop problem-solving skills for dealing with the culture and begins to accept the culture's ways with a positive attitude. The culture begins to make sense, and negative reactions and responses to the culture are reduced.
In the mastery stage assignees are able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture. Mastery does not mean total conversion; people often keep many traits from their earlier culture, such as accents and languages. It is often referred to as the biculturalism stage.
Reverse culture shock
Reverse Culture Shock (a.k.a. "Re-entry Shock", or "own culture shock") may take place — returning to one's home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture. The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock. This phenomenon, the reactions that members of the re-entered culture exhibit toward the re-entrant, and the inevitability of the two are encapsulated in the saying "you can't go home again," first coined by Thomas Wolfe in his book of that title.
There are three basic outcomes of the Adjustment Phase:
•Some people find it impossible to accept the foreign culture and integrate. They isolate themselves from the host country's environment, which they come to perceive as hostile, withdraw into a "ghetto" and see return to their own culture as the only way out. These "Rejectors" also have the greatest problems re-integrating back home after return.
•Some people integrate fully and take on all parts of the host culture while losing their original identity. They normally remain in the host country forever. This group is sometimes known as "Adopters".
•Some people manage to adapt to the aspects of the host culture they see as positive, while keeping some of their own and creating their unique blend. They have no major problems returning home or relocating elsewhere. This group can be thought to be somewhat cosmopolitan.
Culture shock has many different effects, time spans, and degrees of severity. Many people are handicapped by its presence and do not recognize what is bothering them.
I came to the States last July through the program known as The Teachers of Critical Languages Program (TCLP), which is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and implemented by American Councils for International Education to teach Chinese language and culture in Berkeley High School in South Carolina for one academic year. The day I leave America is drawing near. Therefore, I cannot help reflecting on what I have learned throughout the whole year and what will be stored for the future.
Be positive. Life is full of ups and downs. What you can do with it is just have a positive attitude towards everything. When I arrived here, I confronted a lot of difficulties, such as transportation, food, environment, teaching, especially the cultural shocks, for things were not always as perfect as I had imagined. But should I be defeated by these? No, not ever. I should always firmly believe that I should face whatever happens to me. It is a very different experience for me and is a test on my ability and personality. I’ve stayed here for almost a year and actually I have become more positive than before. Keep a smile in the pocket and I will find everything around me is pretty nice.
Be critical. Critical thinking while living in America is of vital importance. I have stopped my precious way of thinking about things in China. Now, whenever I am met with any difficulty, I am open-minded to everything. Learn to accept and adapt. If I sit still and think deeply about it, I will find a good solution to the problem. If I am distressed, how can I deal with the problems in class?
Be acquisitive. Even though I learned English for many years in China, I still found it tough to live in America, for some words lose their original meanings when dealt with in daily life. I seek ways to solve this simple but difficult problem. Every day, when I feel puzzled while communicating, I ask my students to spell the words for me, and I write them in a notebook. I read books and watch CNN news every day. I went to grocery stores to learn words there. As of now, I have picked up more than 2,000 words. I show my curiosity in American culture and my students and friends are patient to explain everything to me. I told my students I am your Chinese teacher, but you are my English teachers. No one is too old to learn.
Be professional. I read a lot of teaching materials to design the curriculum for the students here. I wrote long-range teaching plan to make the Chinese learning go smoothly. I play the role of being a teacher and a Chinese learning administrator. Teaching in the USA is quite different from in China. So I design the student’s activities, for example, projects on Chinese culture learning, creative thinking, and Chinese learning promotions in International Week. Students switch roles working as a teacher, and searching for information individually, as well as being involved in cooking Chinese food. This whole year makes me realize the important role the students can play in the process of learning.
Be reflective. Since I came here, I have been keeping a diary. I wrote many essays on the differences between the two cultures and put them on my blog so that others can get some ideas about living and working in the States. I like thinking when free, which I regard can push me to achieve more in my teaching career and avoid more mistakes. I also took a lot of pictures while traveling, teaching and during activities so that I can have good memories even when I return to China which I will share with school management and my Chinese workmates, which will benefit us as teachers in China.
Be responsible. I still remember the lines in Lion King. “Love, responsibility, knowing who you are and taking your place in the circle of life.” So I should shoulder my responsibility while here. I cannot say I will get reputation for my country, but I cannot lose face for being Chinese. I have a clear mind what I should do. Apart from teaching here, I also did many outreaches to spread Chinese culture in other schools. What moved me most is that each kid who attended the presentation wrote me a letter to show their interest and appreciation. I will take all the letters to China and it will be a good memory for me. The local newspaper also reported my outreach and I became a celebrity overnight. I like doing outreaches, for more people can have access to this awesome culture, especially from a native speaker. Each time I did an outreach, I considered what I would talk about and what activity to hold. Even if sometimes it is time-consuming and a tiring job, I enjoyed it because I am a cultural ambassador. Meanwhile, I can make more friends and learn different things from them.
Be communicative. We Chinese teachers often talk to each other about teaching methodology. We are supporting each other. We know united we stand. We are so supportive that everybody found it was easier to get through the transitional period and tough time. I also like to talk to my Egyptian friends on weekends. They are very smart and hospitable. I learn a lot from them, for I know if you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. However, if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” Learn more and never stop.
Life here in the States will always be a treasure in my life. Sharing all the information with all my friends will actually bring me happiness.
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