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Dealing with culture shock

Culture shock refers to the challenging process of adjusting to a new country or culture.

1. Newness, excitement
At first everything is new - people, sights, food, climate, language, social customs, expectations, etc. The initial excitement usually overrides the stress and anxiety of being in a new country and culture.

2. Disenchantment, homesickness
As the excitement wears off the realities of living in another country sinks in. Speaking another language all day, being far from home and missing the support of friends or family may drain you. You may begin to feel sad, critical and frustrated and doubt your ability to adjust to this new country.

3. Rejection of the host culture
Things frustrate you more than usual and you find yourself disliking and withdrawing from the new culture. You may develop an ‘us versus them’ view and want to return home.

4. Understanding, confidence
With time, a growing understanding of the new culture usually develops. Social customs, norms and expectations become clearer. You begin to settle in and start to feel confident and successful. You are becoming bi-cultural.

5. Reverse or re-entry culture shock.
Returning home from your home country may also involve a significant adjustment.

What may help you adjust

  • Read as much as you can about the country and culture you will be visiting before you leave.

  • Talk with others about your experiences of adjusting to the new country. Talking may help you make sense of these experiences and may help you feel less alone. Other international students are likely to have similar experiences. As well, friends and family back home may find it easier to provide support when they know what you are going through.

  • Be patient with yourself as you adjust. Remember to take care of your body, mind and spirit.

  • Make a conscious decision to succeed and adapt. Tell yourself positive things like: “I will give myself time to adjust,” “I will keep trying,” “I will adapt,” “I will learn,” “I will succeed.” Develop endurance.

  • Trust that you will make the needed adjustments. Believe that you will come through this a more rounded, more experienced and more international person than you were before.

  • Remember your reasons for coming to this new country. Your goals will help you decide how to spend your time.

  • Try new things. Invite others to join you. This will help build new relationships and a ‘future’ of shared experiences together.

  • Stay in contact with friends and family back home. Talk to them about your experiences and keep up to date on what is happening for them.

  • Give yourself time to adjust before making important decisions

Additional suggestions if you are experiencing culture shock in Saskatoon

  • Make an effort to seek out and join groups that interest you. 

  • Make an effort to talk with Canadian students. 

  • Try to find a friend who is willing to be your “cultural informant” and help you understand customs, social rules, slang sayings, etc.

  • If you are struggling, ask for help. Talk to family, friends, teachers or advisors. U of S students may also talk to counsellors at the Student Wellness Centre when they need help managing difficult situations or dealing with stress. Services are free for all students and appointments are booked by phone or in person. Services are confidential.
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