Cultures are shared attitudes, norms, role definitions, values, and beliefs. Individuals base their sense of self on the shared belief systems, traditions, and behaviors within their culture. Normally, we don’t notice the important role that culture plays in our daily lives until we’re among those who behave and think differently than we do. Culture shock is a normal process that occurs when someone is adapting to an unfamiliar culture. Understanding the signs and learning how to cope with culture shock makes the transition easier.

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01When it occurs

People experience culture shock in a variety of situations. Going to school, working, or traveling abroad thrusts a person into a new culture, one that differs in every way from the social cues and patterns they’ve grown up with. Culture shock is strongest shortly after an individual arrives in an unfamiliar destination. Sometimes it lasts only a few days, but depending on the individual and the locale, it could last for much longer. While landing in a new place can be thrilling in the beginning, the transition can be also difficult, and at times, overwhelming.

unfamiliar destination culture shock couple petekarici / Getty Images