Cultural Adjustment

Cultural Adjustment - Cultural Adjustment from Beyond...

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Unformatted text preview: Cultural Adjustment from Beyond Language, Levine &' Adeimah (1932: Prentice Hall), ppj 195L200. .IA: I [Bi Mixing in a second cultiIre'can be like riding on a roller coaster. Sometimesforeign visitors are elated; sometimes they are depressed. First there is th'e'Combination of enthusiasm and eXCitement that is felt while traveling. New foods and aromas, different faces, foreign lan- guages, and interesting customs all fascinate the traveler. A foreign visitor usually has high eXpectations and is eager to become familiar with anewculmre. '- " - . _ ' Of course, not everything is easy during a long stay in a second culture; International travelers may have difficulties understanding the adjustment problems that beset them. Many people do not recognize that the problems, feelings, and mood changes that are related to living in a second culture are nor unique. It is common for international visitors or immigrants to vacillate betWeen loving and hating a new country. The newness'and_' Strangeness of a foreign culture are bound to affect a traveler'semOtiOris. Culture Shock ' I - {C} 10 “Culture shock” occurs as a result of total immersion in a new culture. It happens to "people who have been suddenly transplanted ubroud._’" Newcomers may be anxious because they do not speak the language, know the customs, or understand peeple’s behavior in daily life. The visitor finds that “yes” may not always mean “yes,” that friendliness does not necessarily mean friendship, or that statements that appear to be serious are really intended as jokes. The foreigner may be unsure as to when to shake hands or embrace, when to initiate conversations, or how to approach a' stranger. The notion of "culture shock” helps explain feelings of bewilderment and disorientation. Language problems do not account for all the frustrations that people feel. When one is deprived of everything that was once familiar, such as understanding a transporta- tion system, knowing how to register for university classes, or knowing 195 15 how to make friends, difficulties in coping with the new society may arise. The Adjustment Process 196 {D} H . when an individual enters a strange cuiture, . . he or she is like fish out of water." 3 Newcomers feel at times that they do not belong and consequently may feel alienated from the native members of the culture. When this happens, visitors may want to reject en'en'thing about the new environment and may glorify and exaggerate the positive aspects of their own culture. Caiii‘wsuiil, visitors may Stem their native country i g: m» Fifi; ,.-iA\-._‘:‘.>1.as',~ . ,3. A ' £31153. “A aka-5‘ met-gs v.5". ..i_—-- 4 {El U: {Fl Cultural Adjystment 197 by rejecting its vaiues and instead choosing to identify with (if only temporariiy) the values of the new country. This may occur as an attempt to overidentit’y with the new culture in order to be accepted by the people in it. Reactions to a new cuiture vary, but experience and research have shown that there are distinct stages in the adjustment process of foreign visitors. When leaving the COmfortably secure environment of home, a person will naturaily experience some stress and anxiety. The severity of culture shock depends on visitors’ personalities, language ability, emo» tional support, and duration of stay. it is also influenced by the extent of differences, either actual or perceived, between the two Cultures. Visitors coming for short periods of time do not always experience the same intense emotions as visitors who live in foreign countries for longer terms. The adjustment stages during prolonged stays may; last 198 Cultural Adjustment several months to serveral years. The following “W” shaped diagram 5 illustrates periods of adjustment in a second culture and might apply to a one-year stay (approximately) in a foreign culture. Although the stages in the cycle do not always occur in the same order and some stages may be skipped, the following pattern is a common one: The Adjustment Process in a New Culture3 ' {1) Honeymoon period (5) Acceptance and integration ':~ (3) Initial adjustment _ ' (2) . (4) Culture _' Mental shock - _ - iSolation Each stage in the process is characterized by “symptonis” or'outward signs 19 typifying certain kinds of behavior: 4 - (1) Honeymoonperiod. Initially many people-{are fascinated and excited by everything new. The visitor iselat'e'd'to be in a new culture.__ _ . _ _ . 1' _ -2. - (2) Culture shock. The individual is immersed in" new problems: housing, transportation; shopping, and language. Mental fatigue results frOm continuously straining to comprehend the foreign language;- . .. _' - . '- .(3) Initial adjustment. Everyday actiVitie's anh as housing and shopping are no longer major problems. Although the visitor may not yet be fluent in the language: spoken, basic ideas and feelings in the second language can be expfissed. (4) Mental isolation. Individuals have been away from their family and good friends for a long period of time and may feel lonely. Many still feel they cannot express themselves as well as they can in their native language. Frustration and sometimes a loss of self~confidence result. Some individuals remain at this stage. Cultural Adjustment 199 (5) Acceptance and integration. A routine (e.g., work, business, or school) has been established. The visitor has accepted the habits, customs, foods, and characteristics of the people in the new culture. The visitor feels comfortable with firiends, associates, and the language of the country. ' The Re-entry Process {GI A similar process occurs when visitors return to their native coun« tries, although the stages are usuafly shorter and iess intense. The foliowe ing "W" shaped diagram iliustrates reactions and emotions experienced when a person leaves a foreign country and returns to his or her own 5 country. ” The “Re-entry" Adjustment Processs (1) . Acceptance and integration (5) Reintegration (3) Return honeymoon (2) ‘ I (4) Return . Reentry anxiety shock As in the first diagram, each stage in the "reentry" process is character~ ized by symptoms and feelings.‘5 (1) Acceptance and integration. See description given for the pre— ceding diagra‘m. _ (2) Return anxiety. There may be confusion and emotional pain about leaving because friendships wiil have to be. disrupted. Many people realize how much they have changed because of their experiences and may be nervous about going home. (3) Return honeymoon. Immediately upon arrival in one's own 200 Cultural Adjustment country, there is generally a great deal of excitement. There are parties to welcome back the visitor and renewed friendships to look forward to. (4) Re-entry shock. Family and friends may not understand or appreciate what the traveler has experienced. The native country or city may have changed in the eyes of the former traveler. (5) Rea-integration. The former traveler becomes fully involved with friends, family, and activities and feels once again integrated in the society. Many people at-this stage realize the positive and negative aspects of both countries and have a more balanced perspective about their experiences. Individual Reactions {H} ' Individuals experience the stages of adjustment and re-entry in different ways. When visitors have close relatives in the new culture or " speak the foreign language fluently, they may not experience all the effects of culture shock or mental isolation. An exile or refugee would 5 adjust differently from someone who voluntarily traveled to a new coun- try. Certain individuals have difficulties adapting to a new environment and perhaps never do; others seem to adjust well from the very begin- ning of their stay. {1] Day-to-day living in another culture is undoubtedly an educational experience. While traveling, and living abroad people learn second languages, observe different customs, and encounter new values. Many people who have lived in other countries feel that exposure to foreign 5 cultures enables them to gain insight into their own society. When facing different values, beliefs, and behavior, they develop a deeper under» standing of themselves and of the society that helped to shape their characters. The striking contrasts of a second culture provide a mirror in which one's own culture is reflected. Discussion Questions 1. Which stage of adjustment do you feel you are in now? Did you go through some ofthc other stages? Give some specific examples of your experiences/frustrations m the venous stages. 2. What did you do (or should you have done) to overcome culture shock? What advice would you give to someone who is going through culture shock now? 3. What aspects of this culture are the most difficult to adjust to? Are there any aspects that you may never adjust to? 4. What aspects of your culture do you think Americans would find difiicult to adjust to? 5. Do you have any friends who have gone through the "reentry" adjustment process? What did you observe (specifics) to make you think their “re-entry" was not completely smooth and without emotional trauma? Do you think you have changed or will change in any way that will make your "reentry" difficult? ...
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