Cultural shockMartina BrtnickáEssay2011
2ContentsAbstract ...........................................................................................................
3AbstractIn these days I find myself on an island in the heart of the Mediterranean. Malta isvery small island, about 15 k...
41. Culture1.1 Definition of cultureDefinite culture is very complicated, as there is no such thing as a pure culture.Cult...
5the new places, people, food, habits.. The person mostly sees everything in pink colours,differences are exciting and eve...
6emotionally and intellectually that people are different, but it does not mean that they are bador worse than them.The la...
7or two “pastizzi” baked but very only fatty puff pastry filled either with local cheese or peas)as being middle European ...
8it, or for office workers who start working earlier, that they cannot buy their food as the shopsare still closed and hav...
9the language concerns, accommodation, social contacts and advices for greater workeffectiveness. In this stage is importa...
10ConclusionCultural shock is kind of shock that should not be overlooked as something pity. Mostof the people are going t...
11LiteratureBENNETT, Milton J. Basic concepts of intercultural communication. Yarmouth: Me:Intercultural Press, 1998. ISBN...
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Martina Brtnicka Cultural Shock

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Culture, culture shock, honeymoon, crisis, recovery, stable state

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Martina Brtnicka Cultural Shock

  1. 1. Cultural shockMartina BrtnickáEssay2011
  2. 2. 2ContentsAbstract ...................................................................................................................................... 31. Culture.................................................................................................................................... 41.1 Definition of culture ......................................................................................................... 42. Acculturation.......................................................................................................................... 42.1 Definition of acculturation................................................................................................ 42.2 Acculturation curve .......................................................................................................... 43. Cultural shock ........................................................................................................................ 64. Multicultural working environment ....................................................................................... 74.1 Working abroad ................................................................................................................ 84.2 Osland´s model of working abroad .................................................................................. 8Conclusion................................................................................................................................ 10Literature .................................................................................................................................. 11
  3. 3. 3AbstractIn these days I find myself on an island in the heart of the Mediterranean. Malta isvery small island, about 15 kilometres wide and 27 kilometres long. I am sure that somepeople would find these facts very frustrating, being on such a small piece of earth fromwhich you can get away only by plain or on a boat.Nowadays I am here on an Erasmus traineeship programme, but it is not the first timeI am in Malta. In september 2007 I signed for a 6 months language course as a result for notbeing accepted to the university. It was the first time I stayed all alone abroad without myparents, relatives or friends. The first few weeks were quite hard, but being 19 years old I wasnot so homesick. I liked it here a lot and I had nice classmates with who I spend most of mytime. After three months I went back home for two weeks to celebrate Christmas with myfamily. The fact that I was going home on a certain date probably helped that the culturalshock was not so bad.This essay is about culture, acculturation and cultural shock. It is more theoretical thenpractical but sometimes I was trying to add some of my personal experience. I find this essayvery useful as I can understand more my feelings and make my stay abroad more valuable andenjoyable.
  4. 4. 41. Culture1.1 Definition of cultureDefinite culture is very complicated, as there is no such thing as a pure culture.Culture is an amorphous entity, neither static nor unidimensional. We can name somecomponents of culture – gender roles, food, behaviour, language, music, customs, beliefs,values, believes etc. – but they are not definable as concrete entities which would help todefinite differences between cultures. Culture is a complex concept, much like personality andintelligence, difficult to define yet clearly important. Like construct of intelligence, theconstruct of acculturation is formed by numerous factors, in which people demonstratevarying degrees of capabilities, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Cognitions, emotions andbehaviours play very important role in the process of acculturation. (CBMCS, 2008, s. 120 –121).Let present at least one definition of culture proposed by Linton: “learned behaviourpassed on from one generation to the next.” (CBMCS, 2008, s. 120 – 121).2. Acculturation2.1 Definition of acculturationAcculturation is “the process of adjusting and adapting to a new and differentculture.” (Chaney, 2007, s. 8).2.2 Acculturation curvePeople who went abroad for a longer period of time for study, work or leisurepurposes often experience an acculturation curve or cultural shock in another words. Thediagram shows the stages ofcultural shock in a shape of “U”curve where horizontal axis showsthe feelings and the vertical onetime. I will present two opinionsabout cultural shock from authorsHofstede and Hall.The acculturation curve hasfour stages, the first one known ashoneymoon, which is probably the happiest one of them all as euphoria is experienced fromObrázek 1 Hofstede, 2003, s. 210
  5. 5. 5the new places, people, food, habits.. The person mostly sees everything in pink colours,differences are exciting and everything looks nice, better than at home, travelling is thrillingand we are very happy for going abroad.Then, after certain period of time, the second stage occurs, known as cultural shock,when the differences between cultures are getting annoying, people are disturbed, in badmood all the time, blaming the local people for their unhappiness and feel sorry for leavingtheir lovely home. This is the worse period when lot of the people give up and return back totheir country.The third phase is called acculturation when the person settles in the new country andmanages to deal with the cultural differences, getting comfortable, feeling more selfconfident, adopts some of the local values, becomes integrated into a new social network andstarts enjoying the stay again. The last period of acculturation is known as the stable state. Itcan be both negative (compared to home) and positive, when the visitor feels adapted andbelonged. (Hofstede, 2003, s. 209 – 211).Hall in his book Among cultures names the single stages differently – honeymoon,crises, recovery and adjustment. The phases are about the same, just Hall describes them inmore detailed and add practical examples as well. The honeymoon stage refers to the initialexhilaration associated with the trip abroad. People are excited about going to another countryand see it as a big adventure. There might be some concerns at the beginning, but theenthusiasm tends to outweigh any initial concerns.Crisis occurs after the first excitement wears off. Things that perceived as comical orinteresting now seem to be annoying. This stage called crisis or cultural shock is a feeling ofdiscouragement and disorientation. It is a period of frustration, mental exhaustion, tirednessand feeling sick from the uncomfortable situation caused by not understanding the localculture. People are also very negative towards the members of the other culture. This is thetime when most of the international students, businesspeople and other travellers cut their stayand return home.If visitors “survive” the previous stage and decide to fight it, then they will come to arecovery phase, when they try to operate in the new culture. People start to see positive sidesabout the local people and the community. This is the stage when they get to understand
  6. 6. 6emotionally and intellectually that people are different, but it does not mean that they are bador worse than them.The last, final, stage of the acculturation process is adjustment, when people are finallyadjusted to life in the new culture. People have back their normal moods (not so pessimistic asback to the crises period), they cope with life the same way they did at home. There are stilllittle differences to be found uncomfortable, but there is much more understanding for thehost culture and ability to help others with the adjustment process. (Hall, 2005, s. 271 – 274).As it was said above, acculturation curve has four stages, but it does not mean thatevery person goes through every each of them and for the same period of time. Sometimes ittakes few weeks or months to get to the next stage. Some people go through each stage andthen they just stay in the last, adjustment, stage, others experience them more than once. It hasa lot to do with the frequency of going back home for a visit and so on. It can take over a yearto go through all the stages before the person get comfortable in the new culture, but thisprocess is very individual.3. Cultural shockThe phrase “culture shock” was popularized by Kalvero Ober referring to the “anxietythat results from losing all of our familiar signs and symptoms of social intercourse.”(Bennett, 1998, s. 215). Culture shock, also written as cultural shock is the trauma that isexperienced when one moves into a culture different from his/her home culture. It is mostly acommunication problem that involves the frustration of not understanding verbal andnonverbal communication (basic differences between yes and no, gestures that in oncecountry means perfect in another is offensive etc.), customs (Maltese people mostly do nothave the custom of taking off their shoes when they are come home or while visiting others),value systems, different standards of cleanliness (mostly in the Czech republic the standard ofpublic toilets or the once in shopping centres is higher quality) and fear of personal safety ( Ihave to say that in Malta I feel much safer than in the Czech republic, it might be the areawhere I live, as its quite busy and touristic, and crime rate is not so high here, but once againwe have to consider the size of both countries). (Chaney, 2007, s. 73).Another dimension of cultural shock is disruption of people´s routines, which rangefrom getting up (in Malta is quite late since mostly working hours start at 9pm), eatingbreakfast (Mostly tea or coffee only – in my opinion is Italian influence, but they say to be aresult of the modern lifestyle – no time for breakfast. Very common is to drink tea and eat one
  7. 7. 7or two “pastizzi” baked but very only fatty puff pastry filled either with local cheese or peas)as being middle European I like rich breakfast, warm lunch (again they do not consider lunchas a main dish and eat something light for example a sandwich) and just small dinner, mostlycold, around 6 to 7 pm (here dinner is the main dish and having most of the year hot weatherlocal people eat quite late, when the temperature cools down and everyone is home, back fromwork. It might cause eating problems and few kilos up as it is not very healthy to eat late inthe evening, dinner time is mostly about 7 to 9 pm), all this and much more other differencesin the routine cause a high degree of uncertainty that is very stressful.People like predictability, security of knowing that in a stationary to buy these goods,in a supermarket they find their favourite tea etc., we like to feel comfortable and be familiarwith our surroundings. For example I find very stressful the fact that there are not so manysupermarkets like in the Czech republic, where you can find everything in one place,including free parking (few years ago Lidl opened its chain stores here), or that stationary ismostly selling newspapers, food or drinks and its range of stationary products is quite poorand its very disturbing not to be able to find what you looking for. (Chaney, 2007, s. 73).Other types of cultural shock include attitudes towards women, clothing dress, familyand marriage practises (until 2011 it was not allowed to get divorced in Malta, the marriagecould had been only annulled mostly because one of the partners was not aware of some veryimportant facts – for example if they do not have children, one can say that he/she neverwanted them and annul their marriage, or one states that he/she was under the effect of drugswhen getting married and so on), educational system, ethical standards etc. (Chaney, 2007, s.74).4. Multicultural working environmentMobility of people is continuously increasing, so it is getting more and more commonthat especially international companies have multicultural workers. It can create a bit oftrouble and misunderstanding having to work with different nationalities as they might haveunlike working routine (in Czech republic, from my experience, we start much earlier at work,6 – 8 am, in Malta we start working at 9 am, which is quite late for me), the opening hours ofmost of the local shops are different, they mostly open at 9 to 10 am, then they have siesta,when they close, mostly from 1pm to 4pm and then mostly at about 7ish, 8ish in the evening.This fact might be quite confusing or disturbing for foreign shop assistants who are not use to
  8. 8. 8it, or for office workers who start working earlier, that they cannot buy their food as the shopsare still closed and have to go later.International companies need a manager who is able to handle problem caused bymulticultural staff. The differences are not to be suppressed but instead manage to maximizethe group´s understanding, productivity and creativity. As motivation aspect might differ fromone country to another so for the corporation to get maximum out of their people they need tomanage to work effectively with cultural groups. People who learn more than one culture aremulticultural and can move between two cultures very comfortably (a child whose parentswere raised in different cultures, got education in dissimilar countries and educationalsystems), be familiar with more than one cultural could be very useful for easier travelling orworking abroad. (Chaney, 2007, s. 8 - 9).4.1 Working abroadCultural shock might be very costly for a company if the employees send to workabroad return earlier than expected. It does not necessary have to be the employee´s fault forhis premature return, but if he goes abroad for a longer period he moves there with his familyand that might be the result for the unsuccessful mission. The children don’t have to get use tothe educational system or it could be very difficult during their teenage, when they startsocialising with the opposite sex and get disturbed with different matters or the wife hasproblems getting herself familiar with the surroundings or finding new friends.4.2 Osland´s model of working abroadThe author of this model is Joyce Osland who was unsatisfied with the description ofthis matter in academic writings so she designed her own model, that might happen to theonce who decide to work abroad. She describes it as a six-part journey: the call to theadventure, the belly of the whale, the magical friend, the road of trials, the ultimate boon andthe return. (Hall, 2005, s. 275).The call to the adventure is the opportunity to go abroad and experience a new way ofliving in another culture. Most of the people are eager to go to the other country. They see itas a great opportunity and something that they always wanted to do. In the belly of the whalemeans entering into unknown culture. It is challenging stepping into the unknown, but itdoesn’t mean that everything will go smoothly and people manage to handle everythingcompetently. The magical friend is someone who helps the visitors to get through, as hetravelled a similar path in the past. Mostly is the member of the new culture, who helps with
  9. 9. 9the language concerns, accommodation, social contacts and advices for greater workeffectiveness. In this stage is important not to complain about the new culture. The road oftrials (paradoxes) is the part when the visitor has to get on his feet and go down his waywithout his “magical friend”. That is the time when people see the validity of the generalstereotype about the local culture and also finding many exception that do not fit in.Developing the ability to feel at home in a variety of places yet the person still might not beaccepted as local. A person send abroad on an organisational assignment might caughthimself between contradictory demands – home company asking to make things in certainway and time which might be impossible in the foreign conditions. Giving up some of theirhome cultural ideas or behaviour in order to be accepted and successful in the foreign country.The ultimate boon the visitor learned to sacrifice for the good of others, developed innerpower and accomplishment of seemingly impossible tasks. The return back home might beharder than one thinks as wanting it or not people abroad change, mostly they recalculate theiropinions, believes or values, other people are not really interested in their stories etc. So thereturn home should get as much attention as preparation for the trip abroad. (Hall, 2005, s.275 - 278).
  10. 10. 10ConclusionCultural shock is kind of shock that should not be overlooked as something pity. Mostof the people are going through the acculturation process not even knowing about it andunable to explain their behaviour, feelings and moods. With today´s high rate of mobilitypeople should get familiar with this as it will make their life easier and keep them mentallyhealthy. Get prepared before going abroad, get familiar with the local language, read about theculture they going to spend a lot of time in, preferably meet someone who has alreadyexperienced the trip to give them tips and advices which are not written in any guide, forexample customs, habits, aspects of nonverbal communications, standard of life style andeverything else what might be helpful to get adjusted as quickly as possible.Understanding the acculturation and cultural shock will help to get the best out of thestay abroad and work as efficiently as possible to reach the company expectation when sendon a firm assignment. If moving abroad with the whole family, get your wife and childreninformed as much as possible, for example study the educational system or find out about theopinions towards women. As your family might experience bigger cultural shock than you asyou will be busy and occupied at work and have higher opportunity to find friends.Thank you this essay I got quite familiar with the topic “cultural shock” as to behonest I did not know anything about it before. It helped me to realise that I might beexperiencing cultural shock several times over as I have been coming and going for a numberof years now, but every time I find it hard to adjust with the locals as I compare it to thesituation at home, that we have supermarkets, cheaper doctors, better roads, tastier food,healthy routine, etc. But I have started working on my “recovery stage” from the culturalshock and finding some activities where I can socialise with other people if I am not at work(Erasmus work placement) or at home writing my essays within my individual study plan.
  11. 11. 11LiteratureBENNETT, Milton J. Basic concepts of intercultural communication. Yarmouth: Me:Intercultural Press, 1998. ISBN 1-877864-62-5.GAMST, Glenn, Aghop DER-KARABETIAN a Dana RICHARD H. CBMCSmulticultural reader. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-4129-5946-9.HALL, Bradford J. Among cultures: the challenge of communication. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA:Thomson Wadsworth, 2005, 378 s. ISBN 05-346-4248-9.HOFSTEDE, Geert. Cultures and organizations: software of the mind: interculturalcooperation and its importance for survival. London: Profile Books, 2003. ISBN 1-86197-543-0CHANEY, Lillian H. Intercultural business communication. 4th ed. Upper saddle River,N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. ISBN 0-13-186009-7

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