Cultural Adaptation presentation - University of Illinois Springfield

Cultural Adaptation
 How to do it right!
It’s normal
 Adjusting to a new culture is a normal process – everyone
must do it.
Each individual experiences it a little bit differently.
It produces a wide variety of reactions and feelings.
It does normally follow certain stages.
Not everyone experiences every stage.
Even those who do experience them all may not do so in
the same order, within the same time frame, or to the
same degree.
Stages of Cultural Adaptation
 The Honeymoon Stage – Let the Fun Begin
 Usually the first stage
 Experienced immediately upon arrival
 Everything seems exciting and new
 Focus is on the sense of success in being in a new culture
 There is a high degree of curiosity and interest in the
novelty of the new surroundings
 There exists an appreciation for and anticipation of the
opportunities to be found in the new culture
 Most people feel energetic, enthusiastic, and positive
during this stage
Stages of Cultural Adaptation
 The Culture Shock Stage – Ouch, This Hurts!
 Primary focus is on the differences between the home culture and the
new culture
A foreign language
Uncertainty about how to interact with people in authority
Unclear ideas about how to make friends with people from the new culture
Doubts about how to date people from the new or other cultures
Difficulty communicating in the usual way
Distaste for local foods
Encountering strange religious practices
Discovering differences in the educational system and classroom etiquette
Disappointment that people in the new culture may become impatient
when you do not immediately understand things
Finding that some people in the new culture are simply prejudiced against
people who are not like them
Stages of Cultural Adaptation
 The Culture Shock Stage –
Ouch, this hurts!
 You may have conflicts
with other people, or they
may be internal – you may
begin to struggle with your
own values, habits, and
preferences in the context
of the new culture.
 You may experience
feelings of
Fear for your safety
Confusion about which
values you should choose
Uncertainty about whether
to stay or return home
Not belonging
Stages of Cultural Adaptation
 The Recovery Stage
 After spending more time in the new culture, most people
begin to resolve some of the conflicts that they are
experiencing and to regain a sense of appreciation that
they might have experienced in the first stage.
 They have learned more about the new culture and are
able to better understand both the external and internal
resources available to them.
 During this stage your feelings are generally a mix of those
experienced in the first two stages.
Stages of Cultural Adaptation
 The Adaptation Stage
 During this stage you will develop a more realistic
understanding of both the similarities and the differences
between your home culture and the new culture and will
gain clearer ideas about what you like and dislike in each.
 Many people move in the direction of becoming
“bicultural” – being able to value and appreciate aspects of
both cultures that they wish to retain or include in their
 This stage may be characterized by a sense of confidence,
maturity, flexibility and tolerance.
Stages of Cultural Adaptation
 Yes, there is one more – Reverse Culture Shock
 After you have become relatively comfortable with the new
culture, and are able to learn and incorporate new attitudes
and behaviors allowing you to function better in the new
culture, you may return to your home culture and may
discover that both you and the home culture have changed
(especially if you have been gone for an extended period of
time) requiring that you go through the whole process
 This can be especially confusing if you were expecting to
just return home and find yourself fitting in just as before.
Successful Cultural Adaptation
 Academic Skills
 Become familiar with the expectations of the U.S. academic
 Discuss educational norms with fellow students, academic
advisors, and teachers.
 Take advantage of university-provided assistance to
enhance reading and study skills.
 Review exams and papers after they are returned and seek
to discover what was expected.
 Let teachers and assistants know what you need. Ask them
for suggestions, ideas, and assistance.
Successful Cultural Adaptation
 Social Skills
 Learn about the U.S. holidays, practices, and social customs.
 Spend time in conversation with students and others from
the U.S.
 Use the media – TV, movies, music, newspapers, internet,
etc. – to learn all that you can about local and national
news, events, and culture.
 When uncertain about the appropriate behavior, language,
etc. in a given situation, check with others.
 Find someone with whom you feel comfortable to serve as
your “culture coach.”
Successful Cultural Adaptation
 Emotional Support
 Everyone needs others – friends, family – to lean on during times
of stress. The period of cultural adaptation can be doubly difficult
because there are many new sources of stress and those we are
accustomed to leaning on are either absent or experiencing their
own culture shock.
 Find someone with whom you can share feelings and
 Develop a new support network.
 Stay in contact with friends and family back home.
 Balance work with recreation and fun.
 Seek professional support if needed.
A Cultural Adaptation Diagram
Introducing American Life
 The U.S. – a nation of immigrants
 No
 One type of national behavior
 One life style
 One culture
 A few general issues you are sure to encounter*
*Based on Introduction to American Life, by Densow, Tinkham, and Willer. © NAFSA 2004
 Americans are obsessed with it
 A valuable and scarce commodity
 On time = Respect; Late = Rude
 On time = a few minutes BEFORE the start hour
 Social situations more flexible
 Preference for One-thing-at-a-time, planned agendas
 No interruptions, please
 Get to the point (time, again)
 Information
 No = no, yes = yes
 Clear, complete, direct
 Ask
 Look at me
 Why is that funny?
Status / Hierarchy
 Accomplishments matter more than age, tradition, or
family background
 “All people are created equal.” – courtesy expected
 Includes:
 Race
 Gender
 Ethnicity
 National origin
 Sexual orientation
Status / Hierarchy
 Informal interaction usually preferred
 When in doubt, ask
 Informal ≠ absence of authority
 Observe and imitate
Rule of Law:
 Everyone (individually) is held accountable
 Even if you do not know about the law/rule
 Criminal laws: robbery, assault
 Civil laws: contracts, driving privileges
 Immigration regulations = privileges/benefits, not rights
 Especially applicable to students: legal age for alcohol
consumption, driving, physical assault, contracts (rental
agreements), institutional rules
Relationships / Connections
 Casual, friendly ≠ close, lasting
 Segmentation: different friends for different activities
 Love American Style
 Casual dating
 Committed relationships
 Mutual
 Same-sex
 Inappropriate behaviors (physical, verbal) not tolerated
 Ask
Community Life
 Shared space
 Respect
 Responsibility
 “Cleanliness is next to godliness”
 Rules apply to everyone for the benefit of everyone
 Individual space
 Privacy
 Ownership
 Quiet
 All the above
Find a Culture Coach
 American
 Student
 Your age
 Open and honest
 Keep it official
Enjoy the USA!
This has been a presentation of the
Office of International Student Services
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS HRB 52
Springfield, IL 62703
[email protected]

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