Cultural Shock

People live within the framework of the culture they create. As a member of human race it is interesting to note the different cultures on this earth. The term 'Culture shock' came in 1960s and basically it is a condition affecting someone who is suddenly been exposed to unfamiliar way of life or attitudes. It's an experience of moving from native culture to an unfamiliar culture.

The effects of cultural shock triggers various emotions like anxiety, paranoia, excitement and shock. These are mainly experienced by people who visit other countries for various reasons like further studies, jobs, immigrants and visitors. People have their own experiences with culture shock. It may be because of the food they ate in that country, attire of the people, common gesture, unacceptable standards of cleanliness, language or accent. So, when I chose to write on this topic, I thought of writing about my own experience. Its really just my observations. This is my experience when I landed to united states for the first time.

Let me divide my cultural shock experience in five stages and explain what kind of shock I experienced in each stage.

Stage I - It is the excitement I felt when I was flying to a different country and how I got fascinated with the new culture and customs. The moment I came out of the airport, I saw all "white" people everywhere. I agree I missed seeing Indian faces!! . The concept of "Being in" a foreign country started sinking up in my brain. When I met my Indian friend who picked me up, the phobia went away. But when we drove back to the place where I was supposed to live, the phobia kicked in.. Reason?? Roads, flyovers..... now highways were being called as 'Freeways'.. crossroads were addressed as 'boulevards or intersections' ..Argghhh !

This is how I entered into Stage II of cultural shock..

Stage II - My excitement turned into a big disappointment as I couldn't relate myself to the way people were living here. When I walked out of my apartment, I saw students walking with a sandwich or burger in their hands, going on skateboards.. wearing weird clothes like wearing shorts, cap (reversed), listening to music, hanging a backpack... It was totally opposite to how I used to go to a college in India. I used to dress up properly, comb hair, go in a discipline. It was totally opposite here !

Next, were the restaurants. Being a staunch vegetarian since my childhood I found very disturbing menu items in the restaurants here. Plus, I didn't know how to order food properly :( Oh god.. where did I come ?? How will I survive here... were few of my questions which i asked to myself each and everyday.. I started getting disoriented with the cultural difference here. The symptoms of these - my mood was mostly irritated, more calls were being placed to India (calling cards) and I was getting short of money since I didn't had any on campus job over here yet, sleepless ness (coz of jetlag) and because of this anxiety I didn't feel hungry quite much.

Stage III: After making lot of Indian friends who were in the same boat as me, our views started changing towards this new culture. We slowly started appreciating their culture. There is openness in their culture which was difficult for us to digest. Few initial things we learnt were :- we learnt how to order food in any restaurant we go ! We started understanding their English accent which was quite different to what we speak. Although we never tried to speak in their accent, since it looked difficult to us. We Indians tend to speak very fast and because of the difference of accent, we should try to speak slowly when we speak with any American. It took almost a month to understand this ! Results - phew.. lost 3 on campus jobs because the interviewer didn't quite understand what I was talking about...

Stage IV: Now, after couple of months I got accustomed to the culture, language and general trends here. I made couple of american and mexican friends. I got exposure to international friends and learnt how people respect our tradition too. Slowly, I started sorting good and bad views of this new culture and decided to adopt lot of good things that I was missing. For example, exercising regularly, eating salads and green leafy veggies (sorry but this is the most common vegetarian option here), being independent, managing finances, leaving shyness and being outspoken...

Stage V: This is the stage when I came back to India for my vacation and I felt the initial euphoria, dissatisfaction and confusion. However, I was so excited to share my initial experiences with my family , friends etc..

This was my journey. A basic tip to adjust with cultural shock is being observant and realizing why the culture and customs were created before judging how different others are.

This post is written for blogeshwar


  1. hey..back to ur blog after a long time!
    Although i have never been to any foreign land, can definitely understand what a shock it could be faces, new culture....just d way u described it.
    good to know ur experiences :)


  2. Good post.

    I think when you will go to us again, then you will experience some more stages like the final stage when a person decided to go back to his country, when not a day passes without watching the movies like 'Swadesh' and listening to songs like 'chitti aayi hai'

  3. Wow that was a very informative account of your stay abroad.Would help me if I ever made a decision to settle out of India.Very well-written post, no bias & totally natural language :)

  4. @Sarah, Rinaya - Thank you.. yes it was my true experience and tried to narrate as simply as possible..

    @Rachit.. i have not reached final stage yet.. so I guess i will write it once i experience that shock.. :D however stage V is almost similar..

  5. hehe. i think d frst thing most people notice wen dey visit a country abroad is internet speed :)
    defntly an informativ post n nw v kno if u strt staring at foreigners upon arrival den nothin to worry cos dats d normal thing ;)

  6. @sadiya.. yeah tht's true.. but i entered this country as a student.. so didn't had a laptop when i landed..

  7. nice post.... nothing more relevant to the topic than a person going abroad for the first time. totally new customs and behaviours. interesting read,loved how you take the reader through the different stages as if we are actually experiencing it!

  8. very good post Varsha.. I love the stages.. and it is a fresh read..

    Someone is Special


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