Sweden: My Culture Schock Experience

vid Växjösjön

Imagine moving into a new country for work/ study or whatever. You are super excited because it is a whole new page of your life, and you are looking forward to this opportunity for a very long time. Everything looks totally different from your original culture, and you are attracted by those differences, including building, food, nature, weather, environment, etc.

However, once you lived in the new country for a while, you are not interested in those “new things” anymore. Instead, you start to feel depressed, homesick, anxious, and some other small things in daily life. At the same time, some people have a strange feeling towards the new environment, as well as your original culture.

The diversity of the culture, society, habits, and value sets the boundaries for many people to integrate into a certain society for many, while it is a common problem that most of us will face when we first move to another country with ai different culture. We called it “Culture shock”. Culture shock is a common phenomenon for many people who just arrived in another foreign country and begin to start a new life there. It is hard to get used to the new environment because of the differences between the new culture and the original one. This happens especially for those people’s culture is totally different from each other. For example, a person who used to live in Germany may have fewer difficulties in comparison with a person who comes from Syria when they both move to Sweden to live.

Culture shock is certainly a nightmare for some people and prevents people from moving/ studying/ working/ living in a new culture or country. However, with a better understanding of culture shock, proper research of the place you are heading to, and an openminded attitude, culture shock is just a piece of cake to overcome.

In this article, I will try to answer the following questions based on some research online, as well as my personal experiences about Culture shock:

1.what is culture shock?

2.what caulse culture shock?

3.three phaces of culture shock

4.what kind of people will have a more serious culture shock?

5.my personal experience culture shock

6. conclusion

Part.1 What is culture shock?

Culture shock is a very vague concept for most people. According to Wikipedia, culture shock is defined as:

an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment which is different from one’s own; it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply transition to another type of life. (source:Wikipedia)

From the citation above, culture is generally a process that most people will face when they're in a foreign environment, especially the cultural difference is huge. Culture shock does not happen immediately when arriving at a new environment, but a period after the arrival.

Patt 2. What causes culture shock?

The cause of the culture shock is still under debate, for the reason that it differed people from people. Some people experience culture shock based on a mixture of complex reasons, while some people have no problems fitting into the new society. However, the reason for culture shock is generally due to the feeling of “excitement” towards the new environment vanished.

So for a person who just comes to a new country, he/she will feel refreshed because the culture is totally new for him/her. Everything is unknown and people just want to devote themselves to explore the whole society. Even though there are problems to tackle, such as transport, grocery, language, people are still interested in the culture instead of feeling annoyed by the inconveniences.

However, the feeling of “excitement” vanished as time goes by. Instead of appreciating/ be positive towards those cultural differences, people start to feel uncomfortable with those problems because the “new” has become “old” for some people, and it is when culture shock begins. People start to have negative thoughts such as annoyed, depressed, anxious, homesick, and so on.

Part 3. three phases of culture shock

Moving to a new country with different cultures is a huge challenge for many people. Commonly, people experience culture shock after being into a new culture for a while. It is usually embarrassing but normal, and the process includes three phases: tourist, chock, and adaption.

A. Tourist phase:

The tourist phase is the first phase of the culture chock. People interpret the new culture with the eye of tourism and focus on something new or exciting. In this phase, people are usually forgiving to the new and differences, because people regard their own culture value is right.

B. Chock phase:

At the chock phase, people feel weird and embarrassed, then they will question their original value. Sometimes people feel homesick because they have difficulty understand the new culture while feeling not sure if their original value is correct. It is also easy for people to feel depressed.

C. Adaption phase:

The adaption phase comes right after the chock phase. In this period people learn and understand the new cultural norms to prevent the same mistake. People change themselves If they pass through this phase. If people move back to their original culture will they find it hard to adapt their original culture? It is also known as homecoming shock. The reason is that we come back with a new view.

Part 4. What kind of people will have culture shock easily?

Almost everyone will experience the experience of a culture shock when they move to a different culture. However, some people have a serious “symptom” of culture, while others have no problem getting used to the society. Some reasons have to be taken into accounts, such as the cultural distance, personality and culture, and adaption strategy.

A. cultural distance

Generally, physical distance is a decisive factor that influences how serious culture shock will be. This is because people get to know more information about the geographically neighboring regions/ cultures. The closer the distance between the two cultures, the more familiar you will be with that culture. For instance, a germen person has a better understanding of its neighboring country- France culture, for the reason that the connections between the two are tight and seamless. However, he/ she may find it relatively hard to understand the Japanese culture because of the distance.

Nevertheless, there is still an exception to the rule of physical distance. For countries who is a former colony of a certain country, it is easier for them to get used to the culture, language, rules of the mother country in comparison with their neighboring countries. In this case, it is expected that Australian people will find it easier to live in Britan instead of Indonesia, which is just beside Australia.

B. personality and attitudes towards a new culture

Physical distance plays an important rule in Culture shock, but the personality of the individual is the key factor of overcome culture shock as well. Personality and the attitudes towards foreign culture determine how serious culture shock may become.

For instance, if a person comes from a country where homosexuality has yet to be legalized, he/she will find it difficult in an LGBT-friendly society such as Norway. On the other hand, if the individual is open-minded and willing to accept different things existing on the planet, he/she will be easier to integrate into the new environment with minor culture shock.

C. adaption strategy

Lastly, the adaption strategy towards a new environment is another factor that will influence the culture shock problem as well. According to psychology theory, it can be divided into four categories when it comes to integrating a new culture. The key factor is affected by the attitude towards the original culture of individuals, as well as the new culture.

If a person has a positive attitude towards his/her own culture, while having negative thoughts towards a new culture, he/ she will become segregated. An individual in this situation may discriminate against other cultures, with the notion of ethnocentrism.

If a person has a negative attitude towards his/her own culture, while having negative thoughts towards a new culture, he/ she will exclude from society. An individual in this situation may feel isolated from society, having serious mental issues and anti-social values.

If a person has a negative attitude towards his/her own culture, while having a positive attitude towards a new culture, he/ she will become introduce the “integration” strategy to the new culture. An individual in this situation will keep his/her originality while adapting to the new culture at the same time.

If a person has a negative attitude towards his/her own culture, while having a positive attitude towards a new culture, he/ she will use the “assimilation” method, trying to forget his/her original culture and adapt to the new culture totally.

Part 5. My personal experience of culture shock

I was concerned I would have difficulty adapting to the new culture before heading to Sweden. This is for the reason that I have never been to Europe, not to mention Sweden. What I only could do is to do research on Sweden and Swedish culture before my exchange. There was only a little information online that gives me a rough picture of this unknown country because it is far away from my home, both culturally and geographically.

To my surprise, I have no difficulty integrating with Swedish society/culture after living there for almost one year. I guess this is because of my personality, open attitude, as well as Swedish society.

I regard myself as a person with a free spirit while living in a relatively conservative society. My original culture is not so conservative, and I wasn’t born in a super traditional family. However, I still think that people who surround me are not “liberal” enough to accept all the ideas. Sometimes people just get stuck in the same place over and over again because they never thought of there are other options/opinions/thoughts as the solution. I always think there must be other choices for all the questions in the world, and the reason why I couldn’t find it is simply that I didn’t think out of the box, only with the right attitude.

After living in Sweden, I noticed that Swedish society follows an important principle when it comes to everything. The principle is the society is for all the people, regardless of gender, culture origins, ethnicity, language, etc. Under the concept of being neutral and designed for everyone, it is easy for me to get used to society seamlessly within a short period of time. And that is probably the reason why I think I don't have such a serious culture shock in Sweden.

For me, the real pain is the reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock, also known as “re-entry shock” or “own culture shock”, usually occurs after coming back to people’s original country. It is hard to believe that an environment that I have lived for over 20 years will be fo unfamiliar to me. But it is actually true. I suddenly find it hard to fit into the society that I used to know again because I have already been accustomed to everything in Sweden. Everything is unfamiliar, yet deja vu at the same time.

It feels like some part of me is left in Sweden, and some part of me is at the place I am now. The feeling tearing apart makes me depressed every moment, every second. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night, with tears in my eyes because the memories just pop up in my mind. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the noise in the city I live, longing after the tranquillity of Växjö. Sometimes I wonder if this is just a nightmare that one second after I will wake up in Sweden, chatting with my beloved friends, and enjoy the life in Sweden as we used to be.

The reverse culture shock hits harder than the culture shock itself, and I am still suffered after coming back for more than 3 months. There is still a long way to go and hard to accustom to life here again . Because a voice from the deepest part of my heart keeps telling me that You can’t go home again.

Part 6. Conclusion

So what is the conclusion? Culture shock is a normal process for many who move to another new country, especially an environment with totally different cultures, values, and lifestyles. People who suffer from culture shock may have negative feelings of depressed, anxious, angry, confused, making it hard on the journey of living abroad.

Culture shock is bothersome and uncomfortable for people, and there some factors that cause culture shock. This is included, but not limited to cultural distance, personality and attitude towards a new environment, and the adaption strategy.

Culture shock is painful, yet reverse culture shock is more painful than the former one. However, those processes are parts of the experiences of our lives. We can learn from those experiences, and those experiences will help us thrive, think, and reflect to grow into a better person.

Last but not least, thank you for reading until the end of this article. I hope that this experience will encourage those who are worried about living abroad to step our their comfort zones and help people who are suffered from reverse culture shock as well. You are not alone.

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