Finding your way through a new culture and country Finding your way through a new culture and country

Cultural adjustment, or ‘culture shock’, is a nature transition and is something everyone goes through when adjusting to something new. However, in your situation, it also has the added pressure of a new culture, country, people, and possibly language. All student starting at UEA are going through the same adjustment, you just have more to deal with.

There is a lot of research out there if you are interested, but here is a typical transition pattern people face:

Honeymoon or initial excitement stage

You have just arrived, everything is new and different and it is all very exciting. Your mood is high and you are looking forward to this new experience.

Cultural Shock or irritation and hostility stage

The excitement has worn off and you focus more on the differences. These differences can seem like huge obstacles even though they may be a simple or basic part of your normal life. You may start to feel homesick, your mood feels down, you are more stressed, and you are irritable.

Adjustment stage

You are starting to get used to your new life, ways of doing things. You start to understand how things work and can pick up on differences and accept them, before you get annoyed at the differences. You start to experience personal achievements in adapting to the UK, and you mood has more highs and lows as the adjustment gradually develops

Adaptation or feeling at home stage

The culture is no longer new or viewed as different. You have started to become bicultural, and can appreciate the UK and British cultural, while still able to criticise is but with a more open and deeper understanding that does not affect your mood. You are back to being yourself and can life and work to your full potential.

Ongoing and help

This adjustment period is different for everyone and affects them in different ways. You may also notice that you feel like you are starting back in the culture shock stage again. This is normal and you may repeat the stages, but it will be less intense and will not last as long. Your lows will go quicker and your highs will last longer.

Talks to other students about it. You will find that even British students have gone through a similar adjustment. Other international students will know exactly what you are going through. Even if they do not show it, they will have struggled with cultural adjustment in their own way.

Recognising how you are feeling and what might be causing it is important to improve your mood and your experience. Come and talk to an International Student Adviser in the Student Support Centre, who understand the difficulties you are going through.

Symptoms of Culture Shock

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Homesickness
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Fatigue
  • Stereotyping
  • Boredom
  • Self-doubt
  • Avoiding contact with others, especially British
  • Difficulty studying effectively
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in mood
  • Change in sleeping pattern

Other ways to help with Cultural Adjustment

  • Learn a bit more about cultural adjustments and realise it is a natural part of living somewhere new.
  • Share your feelings and experiences with others
  • Get involved on campus and in the community
  • Build a support system of people you can support you. It can include people back home and in the UK.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, rest, and take care of your mental health too
  • Give yourself some personal time. Especially if speaking in a foreign language all day and be exhausting.
  • Ask questions, learn and try to understand more about the UK and the British.
  • Set some small goals to help you adjust.
  • Stay positive and seek help and support when you need it.