Cross Cultural Adjustment
Living in a second culture is an adventure and a challenge! You might be fascinated at some of the differences between peoples' behavior and thinking. At the same time, dealing with different surroundings, different customs, and a different language day in and day out can be stressful indeed. Understanding cross-cultural adaptation and understanding of the culture to which you are now living are the keys to helping you cope.
It is natural for people who live in a new country to go through what is called "culture shock." This happens because the values, traditions, customs, and beliefs one carries may vary greatly from the new culture one now lives in. Adjustment to any new situation or culture is not accomplished in a few days. It takes time to adjust to a new lifestyle and to make new friends.
Remember, culture refers to the values, traditions, norms, customs, and beliefs of a group or society. It encompasses not just what people think, but how they think and process information.
While each person undergoes adjustment at his or her own pace, successful adjustment usually includes passage through the following four states as identified by Gregory Trifonovich:
The Honeymoon Stage
The first adjustment stage is characterized by a sense of anticipation, exhilaration, and excitement. This is an exciting time as you are fascinated with your new surroundings. Although you may not fully understand your surroundings at this time, you are eager to fit in. When misunderstandings increase, you are likely to experience the second state of cultural adjustment.
The Hostility Stage
This adjustment stage is characterized by feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety, and sometimes depression. The initial excitement gives way to frustration with the college bureaucracy, the weariness of communicating in English every day, and in some cases, physical discomfort or other problems. Although not fully aware of it, you probably react to these stressors by rejecting and displaying hostility toward the new environment. Many academic problems begin during this stage. The hostility stage can be a difficult and painful stage. It is important for you to keep in mind that you are not alone -most individuals in your position experience these emotions to some degree and that you are able to overcome them in due time.
The Humor Stage
This stage occurs when you begin to relax in your new surroundings and begin to laugh at minor mistakes and misunderstandings which would have caused you major headaches in the hostility stage. By now, you have made some friends and adjusted to the complexity of the new academic system.
The Home Stage
The final adjustment stage comes when you have retained the allegiance to your home culture, but also "feel at home" in your newly acquired one. You may now have successfully adjusted to the norms and standards of the new environment, and should be commended for the ability to live successfully in two cultures.