Culture and Culture Shock
See our question and answer session with staff at the American College of Thessaloniki to learn more about Greek culture.
Culture shock is defined as the lack of direction, the feeling of not knowing what to do or how to do things in a new environment, and not knowing what is appropriate or inappropriate. The feeling of culture shock generally sets in after the first few weeks of arriving to a new place.Symptoms of Culture Shock
- Comparisons and unwarranted criticism of the new culture and people
- Constant complaints about the climate
- Heightened irritability
- Preoccupation with returning home
- Continual offering of excuses for staying indoors
- Utopian ideas concerning one's previous culture
- Continuous concern about the purity of water and food
- Refusal to learn the language
- Preoccupation about being robbed or cheated
- Pressing desire to talk with people who "really make sense."
These are a few strategies that participants can implement to help cope with the stress of culture shock. Remember, these are easier said than done, so students will really need to push themselves to act on the following.
- Realize that this is a normal process
- Don’t be quick to judge – keep an open mind
- Set some personal goals and evaluate your progress
- Get involved in activities or find a hobby
- Talk to your Site Director, Assistant Site Director(s), or ISAs – they can help!
- Make an appointment to see an on-site mental health professional
- Ask questions
- Be patient and don't compare
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
- Treat yourself to your “must haves” from a specialty market
- Allow yourself to feel sad about the things that you have left behind: your family, your friends, etc.
- Find ways to live with the things that don't satisfy you 100%
Not only may students experience culture shock while living in a foreign country, but they may also encounter "reverse culture shock." Reverse culture shock occurs when students return to their home country after having been away for an extended period of time. Symptoms of reverse culture shock resemble those of culture shock in many ways. See the reverse culture shock packetbelow for more information on the stages, symptoms, coping techniques.
It is important to be aware of laws and attitudes towards LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) issues when traveling abroad as there are varying cultural norms around LGBT issues globally. Here are a few resources available related to LGBT students and their international experience.
- Northeastern University has a LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, and Ally) community resources center with information regarding on-campus and online resources.
- The Rainbow Special Interest Group (SIG) of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) has great resources for students who are studying abroad.
- Ithaca College has created a downloadable guide for LGBT students studying abroad.
- UC Riverside has created a resource center for LGBT students and topics in study abroad.