Cultural_Biases_Intercultura_Contact

The adaptation process of an individual returning

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The adaptation process of an individual returning home to their culture involves the W-curve hypothesis which is an extension of the U-curve hypothesis. People experience re-entry shock when returning home after they have been in another culture for a significant amount of time and, therefore, have adapted to the new culture. Unexpectedly, the cultural practices that were once thought of as correct or being natural begin to be questioned. The U-curve and the W-curve hypotheses are not always accurate. Because individuals and experiences vary, no one can presume that during the adaptation process, or the re-entry process everyone will experience negative feelings. One must remember that the adaptation process varies dramatically, and there is more than one way of describing the typical adaptation process. Daniel Kealey found that “the U-curve has an accurate description of the adaptation process for only about 10 percent of the individuals he studied; and the remaining 35 percent had an extremely low level of satisfaction initially but improved continuously for the duration of their intercultural assignment.”1 9 The most interesting factor about his study is that the 35 percent of people who ended up being the most competent in interacting with different cultures, was in the extremely low satisfaction group in the beginning. The reason behind this factor deals with the design flaw of the study. During the adaptation process, individuals ranked their feelings of competence and some judged themselves harder than others. In the end, the people who judged themselves the hardest tried the hardest and finished up being the most competent during intercultural contact. Living Intercultrually: Confessions of a Menwai Nonoh I have discovered that when I travel to a foreign land, the first person I meet when I step on its shores is myself. That came as a surprise the first time it happened, about seventeen years ago. I had accepted a two-year contract to teach communication in Pohnpei, Micronesia, and I arrived expecting to look around, meet new people, eat some exotic foods, and, after a couple of years, return home with a pack full of good stories. It turned out that living in a foreign culture was an enormous exercise in self-awareness. When I stepped out of the U.S. American culture, I saw it in a new light and discovered its unique dimensions—invisible dimensions that had shaped my worldview. I discovered that values and behaviors that I took for granted—like rugged individualism, a fast-paced lifestyle, direct communication, and, for that matter, do-it-yourself home repairs—were part of a unique cultural repertoire. My new Micronesian friends did not
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necessarily share my perceptions of what defined the good life. In fact, from their community- oriented, gentle-paced, be-in-the-moment perspective, my approach to life seemed odd. Living on Pohnpei Island taught me about the U.S. American and Micronesian cultures and about intercultural communication. It also profoundly changed the course of my life in ways I could
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