Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs Europe

We are Women Migrentrepreneurs. Finding our place, making our mark.

Cultural Capital: A Confession of Culture Shock

One of the things aren’t usually highlighted in “you-can-do-it” books, websites about women being able to do what they want is the struggle some of the women are still actually going through. Not many either talk about the specific struggles immigrant or expat women deal with. At first, I didn’t want to focus on that either because, I thought, it was more important to be inspired by success stories than read someone’s difficulties. But I do believe that we can learn more hearing “challenge” stories and help support each other more. (That’s what this blog is for too!)

So, I confess. I think I may have been suffering from culture shock. I hadn’t thought of it until someone mentioned it to me. I didn’t want to admit it at first. How could I suffer from it? I have travelled a lot, lived in different cities, studied abroad and worked in an international environment for several years. If anything, I thought I am the most cultural-diversity-aware person.

Culture Shock is said to be a personal disorientation that happens when one is immersed in an unfamiliar way of life. It is said to be an anxiety that results from losing familiar symbols and social cues. For me, it’s being lost in the new set of rules and structures and not being able to or not knowing how to react when the environment does not respond to my actions the way I expect it to or have been used to.

So there is a feeling of helplessness, lack of control, frustration (not to mention feeling stupid for not being able to communicate simple things!). And so the usual immediate effects are rejection of the current environment and regression.

I’m glad it’s only a phase.

It is said to have different phases: Honeymoon, where all new things are seen in a romanticized way; Negotiation, where the differences (language, social structures, etc.) are now causing frustrations and anxiety, making dealing with day to day life seem harder; Adjustment, where one gets accustomed and accepts the differences and learns to live with it; Finally, the Mastery Phase where one is able to “participate fully and comfortable” in the host culture.

Here is a Cultural Adjustment Curve I found via Pryor Adventures

It was important for me to realize and admit that I may have Culture Shock. I’ve been racking my brains on what has been holding me back from moving my business, business ideas forward? I had all that I need, which wasn’t much. I just needed to start contacting people and getting out there.

So what now? Admitting to have Culture Shock may be the first step to get over it. The next step is to take conscious steps to get me through the curves.

Tell us, what do you think of Culture Shock? Have you experienced it?

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Filed under: Crossing Borders, Cultural Capital, , , ,

One Response

  1. Deidré M. says:

    [just shared this as a comment on fb] thanks for sharing this, n! and yes, i can relate. though i think it also makes a difference if the place you find yourself is open and accepting of difference, culturally diverse, or more cosmopolitan, if there are equal opportunities for participation in social, cultural and political life or efforts to make it so… i’m also a bit wary of “culture shock” as something that is “wrong with you” (something only “internal”/ individualistic)…

    but also i agree, it can be a useful a framework for helping one to make sense of this disconcerting experience and figuring out steps to move through the process.

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