Why Is Culture Shock So Shocking?
Culture shock is so shocking because we don’t like things to be different. Change anything and people always seem to have some kind of “shock” reaction to it.
This seems to be magnified when you move into an unfamiliar culture. You go from being a normal productive citizen to being a infant. You go from knowing how to live and “survive” to feeling like you don’t know anything.
Culture has many definitions. I think the easiest way to look at it is “culture is a set of ideas in which a group of people hold or information know by the people around you” and culture adaptation is when you are “trying to attain that information.” (Adapted from L.A.M.P.)
Chinese culture doesn’t have some mystical attribute to it, they just do things differently than I do them and they have done them since they were born. Therefore, what seems natural for them seems artificial to me.
They speak a different language, listen to different music, watch different TV shows and movies. They read different books, have different greetings, and different role models.
Notice they do all the same things that we do, they just do them differently.
I speak a language, listen to music, watch TV shows and movies. I read books, greet people, and have role models. So I am not really learning to do things I have never done before, I just have to learn how to do them the Chinese way.
Here is a simple example: Chinese take their shoes off and wear slippers in there homes. They almost never walk into their house or anyone else’s with their shoes on. Before coming to China, I wore my shoes and took them off as well. But I would wear my shoes inside the house and I didn’t put slippers on. So, am I learning anything new here? Not really, I already have acquired the skills of taking off and putting on shoes, but I did need to learn to do it the Chinese way…when do they take their shoes off, why, and if I don’t is it offensive. It was something that everyone else around me knew to do, but I didn’t. My first reaction to this (something different) is that it is stupid. Every time I want to go to someones house that I have to take my shoes off and put on slippers. It seems inconvenient. These feelings were just a shock reaction to having to do something different. Now, it is not that big of a deal, I realize why and it has become second nature.
When I am used to doing things in a way that comes natural to me, I am fine. But when I add in a foreign concept (a.k.a. change), SHOCK! takes place.