Culture shock often feels like you are helpless or frustrated in a country where you do not speak the language or understand the culture. Culture shock is normal. Anyone living in a new country can experience it. If your experience culture shock you may feel frustrated and not able to accomplish daily tasks such as; shopping or taking public transportation; Tired during the day and unable to sleep welll Angry or irritable; indifferent or sad; uninterested in eating
Moving to a new and strange country is stressful for most refugees. Everyone experiences this kind of stress differently, but there are some common feeling that you may recognize in yourself; such as lack of motivation; lack of self-confidence; loss of self identity; and disappointment. These feelings are usually temporary and diminish overtime. Newcomers to the United States have experienced these feelings and have become stronger and more capable as they have dealt with them.
Sometimes the stress can lead to difficulties handling everyday life, family conflict, and even domestic violence. It is important for you to recognize the stress you are feeling, locate resources, and develop coping mechanisms.
Coping with culture shock varies according to culture and individuals. You may already have develop some coping skills such as eating well and exercising and getting enough sleep; getting together with friends or attending a social or cultural event; setting goals personal goals; and contacting religious and spiritual resources such as your local mosque church or synagogue. To help you during this time, you should try to meet other refugees from your culture or to try to find stores that sell your traditional food. A refugee resettlement agency or service provider can help connect you with American friends to support you during this time.
Here are the four common stages of adjusting to a new culture.
- Honeymoon Phase
- Culture Shock Phase
- Adjustment Phase
- Integration Phase
When you first arrive in the United States, you may feel very excited and even happy. Perhaps you have goals and aspirations for your new life. You probably have been anticipating coming to the United States and have visualized what it might be like. Maybe you dreamed you would quickly get a job, meet many people, live in a nice house and learn English quickly. Maybe you were told how easy the transition would be and how much support you would receive from the government in the USA.
During this time period, you may start to feel upset and sad. You may start to feel angry. You might feel scared or really miss your home country. If you do not speak English, the Culture Shock phase can last a long time. You may begin to see all the negative in American culture compared to life back home. You might begin to regret your decision to come to the USA and feel angry towards yourself, the resettlement agency, friends or family etc. Please know that this is a common phase for all people living in new cultures. Eventually, you will move to the next phase. If you do not move and you still feel sad or angry, you may need some extra help and you should talk to your caseworker about it. As a refugee you have been through many hard things and it is ok to need extra help.
After some time, you will hopefully move past the culture shock phase and you will begin to adjust to life in the United States. You may start to understand the reality of what life will be like in America. You may decide to take a low paying job that can help your family. You may be starting to learn English. You are probably starting to have a routine. Life may start to feel normal.
One common challenge during this time period is that your children may be adjusting to life in the United States more quickly than you are. This is very common. There are some things you can do to still help your children stay connected to your home culture.
This is the final phase of cultural adjustment. During this time, America will start to feel like home. You will start to feel like you belong here. You can now mix parts of American culture with parts of your culture. There may be things you really like about the United States, and things you really treasure from your home country. You can easily navigate your daily life in the United States. You probably have some American friends and some friends who are also immigrants and refugees. Now is the time to continue to improve your education. Eventually, you may become an American citizen.