Suggestions and Strategies to help you cope with Culture Shock

Listen and observe

Since there are new rules, norms, and cues that may be unfamiliar, you need to listen and observe non-verbal communication carefully, trying to put it into proper context.

Learn the language by using it

Language shapes our perception of reality; it is shaped by underlying cultural values and is both verbal: idioms, grammar, words and nonverbal: physical space between speakers, gestures, touching etc.

It is not just how a person speaks that tells us how they feel and react. All verbal messages are accompanied by many different kinds of nonverbal signals. Body movements carry as much and often more meaning and information than the words being spoken.

Ask questions and be honest

You cannot assume that you always know what is going on, or that you always understand a particular communication. Most Americans will be very helpful if you need an explanation of something. You may need to re-phrase a question, check the meaning of something, or repeat what you have said in order to be clearly understood.

Try not to misjudge

You will see many things that are different from your own culture. Don’t label anything as “good” or “bad” in comparison to your own culture; most customs, habits, and ideas are simply different from the ones you’re familiar with. You may also misunderstand some things; don’t make judgments until you have complete information.

Try to empathize

Try to put yourself in the other person’s place, and look at the situation from his or her perspective. Culture influences how different people interpret the same situation.

Be open and curious

Try new things, and discover how and why certain things are done. The more you explore, the more you’ll learn.

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself

It is likely that you will make mistakes as you explore a new culture. Laughing at your mistakes will encourage others to respond to you in a friendly manner and help you learn from them.

Try to accept frustration

Learning to function in a new culture is not easy, and it is natural to feel anxious and frustrated at times. Realize that these feelings are a normal part of the experience.

Get involved

The more you put into the experience, the more you’ll learn from it. Make an effort to meet people, form friendships, get involved in activities, and learn about the people and their culture.

Be respectful of differences, don’t jump to conclusions and don’t be judgmental!

You may find the “What’s up with Culture?” website helpful, too.