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My Experience with Culture Shock in The United States

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Words: 920 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Updated: 6 December, 2023

Words: 920|Pages: 2|5 min read

Updated: 6 December, 2023

Moving from one culture to another is not only exciting but can also lead to "my experience with culture shock," a very stressful and eye-opening journey. When you're transitioning from the realm of your own culture—where everything is familiar—to an entirely new set of customs, the impact is often profound. My experience with culture shock was marked by the range of emotions described by experts: anxiety, feelings of frustration, alienation, and anger when confronted with an unfamiliar culture. Many of the customs of a new culture may seem odd or uncomfortably different from those of your home country. Being in a new and unfamiliar place can be challenging even for the experienced traveler, and it is normal to feel frustrated and isolated. Different people experience culture shock differently; some hardly notice it at all, while others can find it very difficult to adapt to their new environment. If you come from a cultural background that differs greatly from that of the United States, the behavior of Americans may be very strange, annoying, or even upsetting to you at first.

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But to better understand what I mean, I’ll have to give you a little background about me. I was growing up in Kazakhstan, where most of the information I had about United States came from Hollywood movies. The purpose of Hollywood has always been to entertain viewers, while details of American life may not be accurately portrayed. I’ve been dreaming about coming here for so long, yet I never expected that I will have a culture shock in America.

First thing that perplexed me in American culture was how Americans tend to be very friendly. They will start a conversation with passengers on the bus, smile and say hello, give a random compliment to strangers on the street, invite a new acquaintance to a birthday party or lunch. Americans find it easy to make casual friends. They become friends first and build trust later if at all. Americans friend and befriend people suddenly and occasionally. They make friends and become relatively close in no time at all, but it is easy for them to disappear in an instance from one another’s life. This aspect of American culture was kind of confusing and frustrating to me. In my culture, we believe in building friendships and staying connected after the trust is built. It is crucial in the Kazakh culture to be able to trust one another and keep that trust. Kazakhs have to believe that someone is good and honest before having a harmonious relationship. That’s why at first we may appear cold and reserved because we have to know someone in order to open up to them, but once we do, we are very warm and hospitable people. Only after coming to America I realized that my self-identification as a shy and reserved person was part of my cultural identity with Kazakh culture.

Another aspect of American culture that I found different from my culture was a sense of privacy and personal space. Americans do not like their personal space invaded. They find it uncomfortable when others stand too close and will unconsciously move away. In America when friends or family greet, they shake hands or give a short hug and immediately step aside to have some distance for conversation. Also, Americans have a strong sense of privacy and believe everyone is entitled to that. They do not like to be asked their age, weight, salary, personal family matters, political opinions, or religion. In Kazakhstan we greet each other with hug and kiss, personal space is not an option. Kazakh people do not like too much personal space and would rather speak sitting or walking quite close to each other. As conversation proceeds, they tend to come closer and closer. Moreover, in Kazakhstan it is considered rude and disrespectful to keep a large distance during the conversation. In Kazakhstan, it is totally normal to ask about your marital status, age, or salary. I always considered myself a private person and prefer to share details of my personal life only with close friends, so adapting to this aspect of American culture was fairly easy for me.

Another shocking observation for me was the informality of the Americans. I think informality is a uniquely American value. It was one of the things that actually shocked me in a positive way. Calling your elders, teachers, and superiors by their first names was something unheard of in Kazakhstan where you have to use full name and middle name when addressing your superiors. But the Americans informality doesn’t diminish the respect they have for other people. Calling someone by their first name is usually a sign of friendliness or acceptance, not a way to making one feel unimportant. Informality also extends in the way people dress and communicate with each other. People in my country liked to “dress to impress” in the way to show their social status, Americans choose to dress rather casually. This is related to Americans’ idea of equality. If we are all social equals, then we can be informal in just about any situation.

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Part of the excitement of living in a new culture is learning about how it differs from your own culture. You might compare your values and customs with the new values and customs you observe every day. By learning to understand and navigate the culture of another country, we become more open-minded and accepting individuals. It teaches us to shape our own cultural identity, teaches us about ourselves.

Works Cited

  1. Adler, P. S. (1975). The transitional experience: An alternative view of culture shock. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 15(4), 13-23.
  2. Bhawuk, D. P., & Brislin, R. (1992). The measurement of intercultural sensitivity using the concepts of individualism and collectivism. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 16(4), 413-436.
  3. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Sage Publications.
  4. Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2019). Intercultural communication in contexts (7th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.
  5. Oberg, K. (1960). Culture shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments. Practical Anthropology, 7, 177-182.
  6. Pedersen, P. (1995). Culture-centered counseling and interviewing skills: A practical guide. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  7. Redfield, R., Linton, R., & Herskovits, M. J. (1936). Memorandum for the study of acculturation. American Anthropologist, 38(1), 149-152.
  8. Searle, W., & Ward, C. (1990). The prediction of psychological and sociocultural adjustment during cross-cultural transitions. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14(4), 449-464.
  9. Ting-Toomey, S. (2012). Communicating across cultures. Guilford Press.
  10. Triandis, H. C. (1994). Culture and social behavior. McGraw-Hill.

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My Experience with Culture Shock in The United States. (2020, October 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/my-experience-of-culture-shock-in-the-united-states/
“My Experience with Culture Shock in The United States.” GradesFixer, 31 Oct. 2020, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/my-experience-of-culture-shock-in-the-united-states/
My Experience with Culture Shock in The United States. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/my-experience-of-culture-shock-in-the-united-states/> [Accessed 12 Jun. 2024].
My Experience with Culture Shock in The United States [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Oct 31 [cited 2024 Jun 12]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/my-experience-of-culture-shock-in-the-united-states/
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