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MCAT Content / Culture / Culture Shock

Culture Shock

Topic: Culture

Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation that occurs due to an encounter with an unfamiliar culture.

Before assimilation, individuals often experience culture shock. Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, or to a move between social environments. One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign country. There is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently.

Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and mastery. During the honeymoon phase, the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light. This period is full of observations and new discoveries. In the negotiation phase, excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one’s cultural attitude. After some time, one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines, marking the adjustment phase. In the mastery stage, assignees are able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture. Mastery does not mean total conversion. People often keep many traits from their earlier culture, such as accents and languages. It is often referred to as the biculturalism stage.


Key Points

• Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country.

• Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and mastery.

• During the honeymoon phase, the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light.

• After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. This is the mark of the negotiation phase.

• In the adjustment phase, one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines.

• Lastly, in the mastery stage, assignees are able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture.

• In the Adjustment phase, one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines.

• One knows what to expect in most situations and the host country no longer feels all that new.

• Lastly, in the Mastery stage, assignees are able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture.


Key Terms

culture shock: culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country.

honeymoon phase: the first phase of culture shock; when differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light.

negotiation phase: the second phase of culture shock; when differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety.

adjustment phase: the third phase of culture shock; when one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines.

mastery: the final phase of culture shock; when assignees are able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture.

culture: can be thought of as all the beliefs, assumptions, objects, behaviors, and processes that make up a shared way of life.

biculturalism: the state or quality of being bicultural.



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