Here’s How To Adapt to Culture Shock

Here’s How To Adapt to Culture Shock

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Culture shock is a term often used to describe the experiences of people who change their places of living. The intensity of the shock is based on how different or similar things are to the place they used to reside. One may notice a few differences or new lifestyles when they change states, more differences when they move to a different Western country, such as a European country, and even more when they move from more Eastern cultures, such as Africa or Asia. There is often a period of grief that may last for months or years—a longing for what was. Of the friends or families you might have left, places you may have grown very fond of, where memories were had, and the dialect or voices of people made you feel at home.  

You realize you may have to lose much to gain what you initially came into the country for. Over the years, people who embrace a new country may change quite a bit, dropping many characteristics and gaining new ones through interacting with new people and learning from their surroundings or media. It inevitably leaves them in a place where they feel different  – different from the people back home and different from the people where they currently reside. Ultimately, an individual may feel like a stranger to both cultures, not belonging solely to one place anymore. By this time, they may have developed better relationships and communication skills, leading to more fruitful job opportunities and networking. Yet, at the same time, they do not feel like they entirely belong here or anywhere else anymore. 

Parents of immigrants may fear that their child may change and become someone different. They may worry that their culture will be lost, and their children could become people they do not recognize. In contrast, children of immigrants may feel even more isolated than before, feeling guilty for thinking they must choose between the culture of where they are from and where they currently are instead of being accepted for whatever path they desire. 

4 Things To Remember That Might Help You Adapt

1. We are creatures of habit, so change makes us uncomfortable. Yet we change all the time—every minute, hour, day, and month. From a biological level, our cells are continually being replaced; from an experiential level, we become new people with different perspectives and ways of looking at the world as we gain new experiences. Just like different colors make a painting fuller and various ingredients make a dish feel richer. We are not just adapting, we are renewing every time we change, discovering more of ourselves, our interests, what we hold important, and learning about our capacity to adapt to new environments and situations. Loss can be a good teacher of what is important to us and the values we hold. 

2. Coming to a different country does not mean that we need to become someone entirely different. We can pick and choose how we wish to change. Ultimately, even though we do not belong entirely to one culture or another, we belong to both. We may also find new ways to connect with others, understanding that what makes us human is not entirely dependent on our culture and that other similarities can enable one to bond. It could be the same hobbies, such as music or arts; different experiences, such as belonging to the same job; or even the experiences of being a father or mother. In this journey, we can discover new aspects of ourselves and our capacity for growth and adaptation. 

3. No two people are entirely the same, and if everyone were like everyone else, it would rob us of joy, variety, and the capability to learn something from someone else. Imagine if everyone gave the same answer when you asked a question. If no one thought differently and gave their own unique opinions. Things would be a lot more boring. Ultimately, an individual may learn to appreciate what makes them different from others and find pride in their own traits, culture, and identity. 

4. Finally, just because someone leaves their home country does not mean they may never return or visit there again. America is becoming ever more diverse with time, as there continues to be a different influx of people from various nationalities, backgrounds, and cultures. Ultimately, you will still be able to find people from your culture and may even be surprised to see the similarities you inhabit with other cultures that are not yours. Your cultural roots are not lost. They are a part of you and can be nurtured and celebrated even in a new environment. 

As someone who has lived on three continents, I know what it’s like to face the joys and challenges of experiencing a new culture. At Lifeologie Counseling Dallas, I specialize in working with people who are working through multicultural issues, including systemic and racial oppression, bullying, anxiety, generational trauma, relationship issues, and of course, culture shock! In the DFW area, you can reach out to schedule an appointment with me in person or using our secure telehealth. Or, check out all our therapists who specialize in exploring cultural differences to find one near you!


About Emmanuel Ezeokeke

Emmanuel Ezeokeke is passionate about working with first-generation immigrants, refugees, and those who struggle with multicultural issues, including systemic and racial oppression, bullying, generational trauma, and the challenges of assimilating in unfamiliar places, as well as people struggling with severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, difficulties in relationships, and intimacy issues. He helps teenagers, young adults, and the elderly at Lifeologie Counseling Dallas.

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