11: Cultural Differences

How to Deal with Culture Shock

  • Observe how people behave in different situations.
  • Ask questions if you do not understand what is being said or the situation you are in.
  • Keep an open mind and try not to make judgments based on your own cultural values: you are living in a different world!
  • Develop friendships with Americans: they can explain what you do not understand or are curious about.
  • Develop friendships with other international students: they can share their experiences and ways to overcome culture shock.
  • Keeping active is a great way to relieve the tensions of culture shock. By socializing, having fun, working out, and going on trips, it is easy to laugh away negative feelings or tiredness.
  • Watch movies and read the news online and in newspapers and magazines: they provide good examples of American culture.
  • Talk to the International Student Services staff or see a counselor. They can help you put your problems in perspective. Consulting a counselor is a common practice in the U.S. and does not mean you are “crazy.” In American culture, asking for help is not viewed as a sign of weakness and it is not shameful.
  • Have a sense of humor. Laughing at your own mistakes will ease your anxiety.
  • Writing in a blog or a diary can also help with culture shock. On days where you feel exhausted and just need time to unwind, you can express yourself and vent all of your questions and feelings. Even if you are not actually talking to someone, it does help a lot! This can serve an extra purpose by documenting your study abroad experience. After you leave UH Hilo, you will be able to see how much you have grown personally.
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