Cultural Adaptation / Culture Shock

May 14, 2010

Back to the ICT Theory Connections

Theory Information
Description Oberg (1960) coined the term "culture shock" and believed that all individuals went through a process of identity loss, strain, and confusion when interacting with a new culture. Adaptation development models began with the concept of a "U-curve" by Lysgaard in 1955 where he described moving from a "honeymoon" period to shock to adjustment. Gullahorn and Gullahorn (1963) expanded the U-curve to address reentry issues and conceptualized it as two connected U-periods or a"W" shape. Current exploration of this concept attempts to address the apparent "messiness" of the process and cases in which it appears that the stages do not go in order, are repeated, or are a blend (Ward, Bochner and Furham 2001; Y.Y. Kim 2001). These theories examine the internal processing and personal impact of contact and interaction with a different culture and the subsequent development of adjustment techniques, whether beneficial or detrimental.
Connections Programs and activities should take into account the predictable cycles of cultural transition. Programs that offer maximum opportunities to explore the new culture should be implemented near the beginning of the year when newcomers are likely to be enthusiastic, while programs that focus on support for those who are inclined to retreat from the host culture should be implemented later in the year. It is essential to educate university staff and community about the role of cultural adjustment for our students. While it can be very useful for advising staff to frame student difficulties, campus counseling services may also play a critical role. Programs that are "connected" to Cultural Adaptation/Culture Shock theories meet one or more of the following criteria:
  • Program is timed to help students when they may be experiencing particular challenges in an adjustment.
  • Program explicitly helps students develop understanding of, and/or strategies for, coping with cultural shock and adjustment.
Reflections Bruce La Brack