What Is Culture Shock?

Whether you realize it or not, the context in which you live shapes the way you think. Culture shapes the way you see the world. Culture can be defined as the social behavior and norms of a group of people.

If you’ve grown up in the United States, it probably seems weird (and illegal) to drive on the left side of the road. You become annoyed if someone cuts you in line. You’re pretty much irate if there isn’t even a line to begin with. You don’t understand why someone would use their horn if they aren’t mad at you. It’s irritating that someone showed up at 4 p.m. when you were scheduled to meet at 2 p.m.

This is because American culture has shaped the way your mind determines what is normal. If you were born in the bustle of New Dehli, your mind would define normal differently.

It makes sense then that moving out of your home culture and into a new culture you do not leave the way you see the world behind. It’s a major transition that is often called “culture shock.”

Global Perspectives breaks it up into four stages:

The Honeymoon Stage

The Frustration Stage

The Adjustment Stage

The Acceptance Stage

One of the goals of our mentorship is for students to experience the culture shock cycle and learn how to walk through it in a healthy way. We spend a lot of time talking about going into new cultures as a learner. This allows students to approach differences in culture with openness instead of fear or distrust.

Our hope is that learning to walk through cultural shock cycles alongside a mentor will equip these future missionaries to navigate cultural differences in a healthy way in the future.

Hear how one student describes learning to make a new place home:

"It's possible. It's possible to make a foreign place your home. I have experienced this now – the process of growing roots in unfamiliar soil for the past 3 months. I'm not even close to understanding this place or being a cultural expert, but thanks to Him, He provided a community of people who make South Asia home, a place I love. 
Secondly, (but most importantly) as I'm growing older and living in different places it's causing me to draw near to my Father who is my true home. They say "home is where the heart is" and where you're most comfortable, well then home is in His presence! I keep learning how no place on earth will ever feel like home until I stand before Him one day in his presence. But while I'm still here, He is where my heart is and where I find my truest comfort.” 

Have you ever experienced culture shock? How did you overcome it?