Culture Shock Culture in ancient times was defined as “the sum total of the equipment of the human individual, which enables him to be attuned to his immediate environment on the historical past on the other”. It reflects in effect what humans have added to Nature. It comprises the spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society and includes, in addition to the arts and letters, the value systems, traditions, modes of life and beliefs of the society. It also absorbs from other cultures and undergoes changes with time, sometimes beneficial, sometimes regressive. (Barlas, 15). Culture shock is a severe psychological reaction that results from adjusting to the realities of a society radically different from one’s own.
The actual degree of culture shock may vary depending on the differences and similarities between the society studied and the persons’ own society. The symptoms may range from mild irritation to surprise or disgust. (Scupin, 124). Usually after the person experiencing culture shock learns the norms, beliefs, and practices of the community, the psychological disorientation of culture shock begins to diminish. This paper will be based upon culture shock and international business.
There are three areas where culture shock could affect you: 1. Emotions-you have to cope with the stress of international work and keeping an emotional balance in order to perform in a business. 2. Thinking style- you have to understand how your counterparts think and be able to develop culturally effective solutions. 3. Social skills and social identity- you need effective social skills to establish new business relationships. (Marx, 25). This differs from manager to manager, some managers seem to adapt in an almost chameleon – like way to different countries, whereas others cling desperately to their habits and their national approaches.
Working in a new culture can produce a variety of reactions, such as; ? Confusion about what to do ? Anxiety ? Frustration ? Exhilaration ? Inappropriate social behavior ? Inability to get close to your business partner and clinch the deal ? Feeling isolated ? Becoming depressed All of the above are possible reactions to culture shock, the shock we experience when we are confronted with the unknown the “foreign”. The term culture shock was coined by the anthropologists Oberg, who explained both the symptoms and the process of adapting to a different culture. The experience of a new culture is seen as an unpleasant surprise or shock- a shock that occur when expectations do not coincide with reality. (Marx, 5). In his original article, Oberg lists six main aspects of culture shock: 1. Strain caused by the effort to adapt.
2. Sense of loss and feelings of deprivation in relation to friends, status, profession and possessions. 3. Feeling rejected by or rejecting members of the new culture. 4. Confusion in role, values and self-identity.
5. Anxiety and even disgust/anger about foreign practices. 6. Feelings of helplessness, not being able to cope with the new environment. Culture shock in all its diverse form is completely normal and is part of a successful process of adaptation.
Oberg also developed a model of adaptation that suggests that going abroad or working internationally put you through or cycle of distinct phases on the way to final adaptations. The first stage is the honeymoon phase, where all encounters in a new place are seen as exciting, positive and stimulating. The new life is viewed as providing endless opportunities and the manager is usually in a state of exhilaration. There is openness and curiosity, combined with a readiness to accept whatever comes. Most importantly, at this stage judgment is reserved and even minor irritations are suppressed in favor of concentrating on the n ice things about the job, the country, the colleagues, the food, etc.
In the second phase, culture shock sets in- the manager realizes that something is not quite right. This experience of foreignness can start with a creeping awareness of disorientation and a feeling of not quite knowing what is going on. It can also include very negative symptoms, such as stress (being unable to sleep or eat), irritability, and a negative view of the job, the country and colleagues. This phase is characterized by a general unease that can involve being uncomfortable with the new situation but can border on hating everything foreign. The main reason for these symptoms is an uncertainty about our surroundings our future and ourselves. The usual signs if orientation and belonging do not exist, we don’t quite know who we are without the familiar social context, and the way our foreign colleagues behave seems all wrong.
How individual managers deal with this particular phase and its emotions, thinking and expectations are essential for their overall adaptation in the long run. The ideal approach is to use the symptoms and the unpleasantness as a clear indicator that it is time to change our approach and to engage in some form of self-development both in dealing with our emotions and in understanding ourselves and others. The worst type of approach is to ignore the symptoms, to resort to superficial solutions or to adapt a rigid stance of believing that only out methods are correct and forcing these methods/management techniques on foreign colleagues. The third phase of recovery usually starts with accepting that we have a problem and that we have to work on it. Both recovery and the final adjustment phase usually involve a compromise between the feeling and thinking of the honeymoon phase and the culture shock phase. This compromise is between our exaggerated expectations and reality.
In the final, adjustment stage managers are able to work effectively, know the limitations ways of doing things and most importantly, are able to be more flexible. (Marx, 8). There are ten basic steps for minimizing culture shock; ? Don’t let culture shock take you by surprise. Allow time to find our about it before you leave for your assignment. Learn to recognize the symptoms and their potential impact.
? Expect culture shock to happen irrespective of location. It is as likely to occur in a country near your home base as in posting further afield. ? As soon as you arrive in your new location, identify all the opportunities for building support networks with other international managers and local people. ? As with any stressful situation, fight it, don’t give in to it. So don’t resort to escapist strategies such as drinking or eating too much and don’t deny your symptoms. ? Ask other international managers for guidance on the issues and problems to look out for.
Learn from their experience ? Give yourself time to adapt and don’t rush into too many work-related projects as the start of the assignment. Make sure that the organization gives you this time too. ? Don’t hesitate to seek professional help of symptoms persist despite your coping effort. Help may be available within your company or externally through counselors or the medical profession. ? Expect the same symptoms to reoccur when you come home. Reverse culture shock is normal. ? Think about the positive aspects of culture shock-people who experience it adapt better to their new environment than those who do not.
Retain a sense of humor! (Marx, 18). Social Issues.