Chronic Stress

Culture Shock

In this article, Winkelman lays down the foundation to what is Culture Shock and provides a host of ways in which to best cope with it. First, he establishes and describes the four stages associated with culture shock.

  1. Honeymoon. This is marked by increased excitement, sleeplessness and interest in the new and foreign environment.
  2. Crises And Shock. This stage is brought out when minor problems become major problems. Irritability for the new culture begins to form and people begin to be preoccupied with the differences they notice in the new environment.
  3. Reorientation. If the individual makes it through this stress ridden second stage, a phase of adjustment and reorientation begins. This is when issues of cultural shock are resolved and the new culture makes sense.
  4. Adaptation / Acculturation. This is when the individual can manage the new surroundings and can actually resolve problems in the culturally appropriate ways. This final phase is marked by the individual understanding and feeling a part of their new cultural surroundings.

The stressors brought about by culture shock come from a variety of sources.

  • Cognitive Fatigue. Cognitive fatigue is the stress brought out by the challenges of understanding the new culture. This is when the individual must make a conscious effort to interpret the language, understand the food, behave appropriate, and have successful social interactions. This can lead to an “information overload” which can lead to great amounts of stress and exhaustion.
  • Personal Shock. This is marked by the intense change in personal life when one travels. The individual often loses their sense of intimacy as they have left those they care most about behind. They also have self-esteem and identity issues as they are surrounded by all these uncomfortable and unknown. Winkelmen cites Rhinesmith as suggesting that, “cultural shock may induce a ‘transient neurosis.’” Winkelmen then goes on to discuss some ways to manage and ‘survive’ this culture shock. One way is through predeparture preparation. When an individual is prepared for the effects of cultural shock, these effects will be lessened. This is a fairly simple managing strategy. Another way of managing is through personal and social relations. Not only can a person lessen their cultural shock by making friends with people living in the foreign environment, but these effects can be dampened also by maintaining contact with loved ones back home. Keeping up with and learning about happenings in their home environments, a person can still feel connected to their friends and family back home which could instill confidence needed to further their social lives in their new environment. When I discuss culture shock in my ethnography this will be a perfect article in which I can use to define and discuss the basic ideas and concepts that are behind the stressors brought about by cultural shock.

Winkelman, M. (Nov. 1994). Cultural shock and adaptation. Journal of Counseling and Development, Vol. 73 (No. 2). Retrieved from %3D&tabid=362&mid=868