Culture Shock

When you live in a new country for more than a short time, you may experience “culture shock”. It is normal to feel a little bit lost or confused when you make a big change in your life.

It is different for every person. Almost everyone experiences some kind of culture shock. You might feel loneliness or homesickness, you might get headaches, you might not be able to sleep or concentrate in class. You may feel sad or depressed. You might think everything in Canada is stupid and bad. You may think about your friends or your home every day. You might feel the effects in the first few weeks or it might take months or longer.

People who study culture shock say that it goes in a cycle like the one below. It is like a “W”. There are 6 stages or steps to culture shock. At the peaks, you feel happy. In the valleys, you feel depressed or unhappy.

 

This is what it may feel like:

  1. Initial Anxiety: “Wow! Canada! I am nervous and frightened.”
  2. Initial Elation: “Everything is wonderful and interesting! Canada is the best place in the world! Montreal is a perfect city!”
  3. Initial Culture Shock: “It is difficult to do everything. I don’t understand anything. It is frustrating. I hate this place. Why did I come here?”
  4. Superficial Adjustment: “OK, this isn’t too bad. Montreal is a fun city. I have some friends here now. I have found a good restaurant from my country. I am learning a lot about Canada.”
  5. Depression, Frustration: “I hate Concordia. I hate Montreal. I hate Canada. What is wrong with these people? Why don’t they do things like in my country? I wish I would get a letter from home.”
  6. Real Acceptance: “Now I understand. There are things I like and things I don’t like, but all in all, I really like it here.”
If you stay in Canada for only a few months, you may only feel the first few stages, or nothing at all. To complete the six stages, some people could take 6 months, a year, or even 2 years.

It is normal to experience culture shock. Almost everyone feels it when they live in another country, but everyone will feel differently. It helps to talk about it with your teacher, a classmate, or a friend. If you would like to talk to a counsellor, contact Counselling and Development.

»Returning Home (re-entry shock)

When you return to your country, you may also suffer from culture shock. Just before you return, you may feel nervous because you don’t know what to expect. Then, when you get home, you will be excited. But after a while, you might begin to miss Canada and feel re-entry shock as you get used to life in your country again.

You will remember your experience in Canada for the rest of your life. You will learn much more than English, and knowing about how culture shock can affect you will help you understand your experience.

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