Culture Shock Essay

Cheap Custom Writing Service

The term  culture  shock was first introduced in the 1950s to describe the anxiety a person can frequently experience when moving to a different environment, and encompasses  feelings of disorientation and not knowing what to do or quite how to do it and, ultimately, what is acceptable or appropriate  within the new culture. The discomfort experienced can be physical as well as emotional, and while the term might be used in different contexts  (and where it might then have different  meanings)  culture  shock is generally interpreted as the process of coming to terms  with differences in culture,  as these  occur  through  daily interaction  in the new context.

The term  may be traced  to two sources. First of these is Schumann’s Theory of Acculturation,  which attempts  to explain the various stages that an immigrant will go through  from initial arrival in the foreign country to eventual assimilation. Schumann envisages  a  continuum  of  adaptation   along  which the immigrant  will travel, even accepting that  many people will not stay in a foreign country long enough for total “conversion” to occur. The second source is represented by the work of the pioneering and world-renowned anthropologist Kalervo Oberg. Born to Finnish parents  in British Columbia,  Oberg  had an early academic  career  in universities  in the  United States  (Missouri  and  Montana),  the  United  Kingdom (London School of Economics), and Brazil (São Paulo). He then worked for various U.S. government agencies as an applied anthropologist with postings to South  America, before late in his career  returning to academe  (then  at the universities of Cornell, Southern California, and Oregon State).

The basis of Oberg’s developed theory  of culture shock was his now famous address to the Women’s Club  of Rio de  Janeiro on  August  3, 1954, which outlined  the feelings common  to people when face-to-face  with  a  cross-cultural   situation.  The  model he developed  was a four-stage  one, although  more recently this appears  to have been expanded  to five elements; nor is there total acceptance of the relevant nomenclature.

It is important to recognize that while psychology is the study of individual personality, it is the alternative discipline of sociology that is the study of groups and the behaviors they exhibit. Thus the study of culture is not about the study of individuals per se since the development  of a particular  culture is not something to which the individual can contribute.  Culture is developed within a nation  over a period of many years and through  processes that are largely beyond the  awareness  of the  individual.  Culture  imbues  a country  with  national  characteristics:  The concept of “living the American dream” (anything is possible) familiar to a U.S. citizen or the British obsession with the weather are obvious examples. Other  frequently cited aspects of culture are the acceptability (or otherwise) of smoking, semi-nudity,  drinking or kissing in public (perhaps particularly by women). More specific examples might be, for example, not showing the soles of one’s feet in public, or demonstrating appreciation of a meal by belching, or leaving one’s shoes outside one’s host’s house.

Oberg  considered  that  culture  shock  is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs of social intercourse. This leads to feelings of frustration  and anxiety; the home environment suddenly  assumes  enhanced  significance; and  ridicule may be poked at everything that is now encountered that is found strange or unfamiliar. The stages of culture shock that have been identified are as follows:

  1. The first stage is generally known as the “honeymoon” stage (although also variously as “incubation” or “stimulation”). The recent arrival is full of hope and excited by everything new that is encountered and this positive (even euphoric) outlook keeps negative feelings at bay.
  2. The second stage is the culture shock (or “hostile”) stage, when the need  to  settle  into  the new culture (probably through now starting work  as either  a businessperson  or  student) means coping with day-to-day  situations  that are different from “back home.” Dislike and/or criticism of the host culture surfaces, to be frequently  accompanied  by homesickness,  lethargy, irritability, and even outright  hostility to the host culture.
  3. The third or “acceptance” stage is when a period of adjustment is gone through, during which the individual begins to perceive value in their new environment. A favorable comparison  of “new” and “old” environments may even occur as the new arrival gains understanding. Pleasure and good humor  return  as empathy  with the  new environment develops.
  4. In the fourth  or  “enthusiasm” stage, the  host country  begins to appear  more  and  more  like “home” and certain aspects of the adopted culture  may well be perceived to be preferable to the  native culture.  Integration  is accompanied by an enhanced sense of belonging.
  5. The fifth (and final) stage occurs following return to the native culture (hence “re-entry” or “reverse culture” shock). Things may not be the same as they were upon leaving, so a readjustment process must be gone through all over again.

It is important to recognize that not everyone will be affected to the same extent by culture shock. The state of an individual’s physical and  mental  health,  their personality,  language familiarity, level of education, and previous travel experience can make the necessary adjustment  process easier or more difficult.


  1. Bonnie S. Guy and W. E. “Pat” Patton, “Managing the Effects of Culture Shock on Sojourner  Adjustment  on the Expatriate Industrial  Sales Force,” Industrial Marketing Management  (v.25/5, 1996);
  2. John R. Hanson, “Culture Shock and Direct Investment in Poor Countries,” Journal of Economic History (v.59/1, 1999);
  3. R. McComb and G. M. Foster, “Kalvero Oberg, 1901–1973,” American Anthropologist (1974);
  4. Jean McEnery and Gaston DesHarnais, “Culture Shock,” Training and Developmental Journal (v.44/4, 1990).

This example Culture Shock Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

See also:


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality

Special offer!