The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Amanda McIntyre '22 RGLP Reflection: Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

RGLP students reflect on the remote spring term.

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Culture shock is the discomfort, anxiety, and sometimes embarrassment one experiences when being in a space where that person’s own cultural norms are not the general norm. Moreover, culture shock is displacement and the constant obsession of one feeling as if they do not belong. No, I cannot speak to everyone’s experiences, but I find it hard to believe someone has not experienced culture shock at least once. No, culture shock cannot be avoided; however, yes, there are ways one can overcome the symptoms of culture shock.

One of the most vital tactics when coping with the symptoms of culture shock is remaining calm and being sure not to display the shock either in your facial expressions or body gestures. This is difficult, yes, but some people can take offense to your culture shock especially if they assume that you dislike their culture or show distaste for cultural aspects they heavily value. Another key tactic, especially when trying not to display the culture shock, is to be observant but to do so in a way that does not make it seem you are mocking or downplaying the aspects of someone else’s culture. Regardless of how foreign these circumstances may be to you, there’s someone who values these features heavily and encompasses them in their way of living.

Moreover, another method that can be used to cope with the symptoms of culture shock is becoming more familiar with foreign cultural aspects. This particular method is long-term, yes, but it can be extremely worthwhile for someone who will be inhabiting said place for long periods of time. Increasing familiarity will come with time and the more exposure the person experiencing the culture shock receives, the less surprise they will feel when these circumstances present themselves. 

There is no perfect method to coping with culture shock and there's often a need for a combination of the previously mentioned methods. It is essential that those who are experiencing culture shock maintain an open-minded mentality, positive attitude, and understand that the only way to overcome the culture shock is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences