What is 'Culture Shock'

Culture shock is the feeling of uncertainty, confusion or anxiety that people experience when visiting, doing business in or living in a society that is different from their own. Culture shock can arise from a person's unfamiliarity with local customs, language and acceptable behavior, since norms can vary significantly across cultures.

BREAKING DOWN 'Culture Shock'

The feeling of culture shock can dissipate over time. Visitors to a new country, for example, will at first be unfamiliar with the nuances of local culture, but they will learn how to adapt as interactions with people continue. Culture shock can be daunting for those who do business abroad due to the added pressure of maintaining or developing a profitable business relationship. Many international companies provide cultural training to help reduce cultural gaffes by employees, which can affect business.

Culture shock is usually most intense at the beginning of a stay abroad – in a good way. At first, people are usually thrilled to be in their new environment, and they see it as an adventure. If someone is on a short stay abroad, this initial intrigue may define the whole experience. However, if someone has moved to the new locale on a more permanent basis, this "honeymoon" phase will eventually wear off.

After the initial glee of being in a new environment dissipates, people may actually grow frustrated with their situations. This can be the most difficult period of culture shock as fatigue sets in with not understanding various gestures, signs and language. The inability to effectively communicate is usually the prime source of frustration. This is when depression or homesickness and longing for the familiar and comfortable become most prominent.

Recovering from Culture Shock

As a traveler becomes more familiar with a place, the foreign people, customs, food and language becomes more palatable and comfortable. Navigation of surroundings gets easier. Friends are made. And everything gets a little more comfortable. Following this period of adjustment,  the final stage of culture shock is acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that new cultures or environments are completely understood. Rather, it signifies realization that complete understanding isn’t necessary to function and thrive in the new surroundings. During the acceptance stage, travelers have gained the familiarity they need to feel more comfortable in all aspects of life.

Culture shock is difficult to overcome, but they are an essential aspect of the cultural experience traveling affords. By recognizing it for what it is, culture shock need not ruin the otherwise life-shaping experience traveling can be.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Cross Culture

    Cross culture is the interaction of people from different backgrounds ...
  2. Globalization

    Globalization is the extension and integration of cross-border ...
  3. Supply Shock

    A supply shock is an unexpected event that changes the supply ...
  4. Performance Management

    Performance management is the supervision of employees and departments ...
  5. Diffusion Of Innovations Theory

    Diffusion of innovations theory is a hypothesis outlining how ...
  6. Accounting Control

    An accounting control is a set of procedures that are implemented ...
Related Articles
  1. Financial Advisor

    Expect FINRA to Ask These Culture Questions

    This month, FINRA kicks off its culture examinations for brokerage firms. Here's how to cram for the test.
  2. Tech

    Top Tips for Buying a Financial Advisory Practice

    When acquiring a new financial advisory practice, make sure that your game plan avoids these acquisition missteps.
  3. Retirement

    Retirement: U.S. vs. Abroad

    Which option would make more sense for you: retiring abroad or staying at home in the U.S.? A look at the advantages and disadvantages of each route.
  4. Retirement

    Retirement Abroad: 5 Unexpected Foreign Cities

    If retiring abroad is your dream, here are some less well known destinations where the culture is rich; the scenery, lovely – and the dollar strong.
  5. Retirement

    5 Reasons Americans Retire Abroad

    From better weather to a cheaper cost of living, here are 5 reasons to make the move.
  6. Insights

    Uber to Change Culture and Present Diversity Report

    Controversies aside, the ride-sharing company had its most successful week ever last week.
  7. Personal Finance

    Advance Your Career With a Finance Job Overseas

    Many finance jobs have moved overseas with outsourcing providing cost benefits. Find out why taking a job in a foreign country could be a good career move.
  8. Personal Finance

    How to Identify a Workplace that Will Help You Succeed

    While the workforce gender gap has narrowed, women are still underrepresented in the C-suite. Here's how top female CEOs got their start.
  9. Personal Finance

    How Amazon Monetizes Convenience (AMZN)

    Amazon has tapped into America's convenience culture. The company has struck gold with services that allow for maximum convenience at a low cost.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How do interpersonal skills influence a business culture?

    Interpersonal skills are vital to business culture because they determine not only how a person interacts with others, but ... Read Answer >>
  2. How does the notion of the American Dream influence the U.S. economy?

    Learn about how the American Dream has influenced the U.S. economy. The American Dream is the idea that anyone can make it ... Read Answer >>
  3. Investment Banking vs Private Equity

    Despite both shared similar characteristics, they are different in many ways. Check out how private equity and investment ... Read Answer >>
  4. How does brand image and marketing affect market share?

    Building a positive brand image is a must for companies that want an edge over the competition. Learn how marketing and branding ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center