Culture Shock

Note:  The following are teaching notes that I made available for students in BSAD560, Intercultural Business Relations, a graduate course offered as an elective in the MBA program at Andrews University.  If you find this material useful, you may use it for non-commercial purposes such as teaching, intercultural training seminars, etc.  In such cases, provide an appropriate academic citation to Dr Charles Tidwell, Dean Emeritus, Andrews University.

In addition, these notes have been translated as listed below.  If you desire to translate these notes into another language and use them in a blog or other publically available web site and wish to have this noted here, please let me know.  My e-mail is 

Nathan Zed

A definition

A temporary state of being (involving mind, behavior, health, attitudes, and feelings) which is the cumulative result of the "jolts" received while living and working in another culture.

Areas which affect culture shock

Note:  Culture shock affects one’s whole being but often begins as minor jolts to one's system.  Jolts are those differences between various aspects of your own culture and the new one you are living it.  It usually results from an increasing progression of jolts from the differences one gradually notices in many if not all of the following areas:  

  • physical setting: geography, climate, fauna, flora, food, buildings
  •        Examples:    Moving from a rural to an urban setting
                              Moving from a temperate climate with four distinct seasons
                                    to a year-round tropical hot and humid climate

  • social life: greetings, relationships, privacy, distance, times
  •        Examples:    Moving to a society in which your neighbors and colleagues expect to know things about you
                                    which you might normlly keep private such as your wages
                              Moving to a society in which attitudes toward being on time are different than your culture

  • economic setting:  poverty, unemployment, be
  •        Example:  Moving from a society in which poverty is essentially hidden
                                to one that accepts as normal obvious proverty, high unemployment, and wide-spread beggging.

  • outward signs of culture:  language, signs, ways of thinking, values, practices, beliefs
  •        Example:  something as minor as differences in advertising and street signage

  • government: structures, abuses
  •        Example:  the level of acceptance of bribery by government officers (police)   
                                 and by business in order to get jobs accepted and completed on time

  • health / hygiene: diseases, sanitation
  •        Example:  the presence or absence of public sanitation

  • internal: goals, success, perfection, role changes (job and gender)
           Example:  the acceptance or avoidance of failure

  • Symptoms

    The following are listed from the more common symptoms that most individuals experience
        to those that are found in individuals experiencing a more extreme culture shock reaction