Studying Abroad 101: Culture Shock

For those who want to study abroad (or stay long-term) in Japan one day, one thing to be aware of when you first enter the country is culture shock. Culture shock is natural, expected, and unavoidable. No matter how much anime you watch, no matter what you do to prepare, there are going to be things about the culture that are just foreign and alien to you, whether it’s the language (which is really hard to learn), food (which can be weird sometimes, pufferfish anyone?), climate, and even just everyday actions of different people.

When you first enter Japan, you will probably feel only excitement and anticipation as you explore the various sights, eat at your first ramen stand, take lots of pictures, etc. However, after several weeks in this new environment, you may find yourself with less energy and even less enthusiasm. Maybe you do not have many friends yet and start miss home.

The good news is that disorientation is temporary and the feelings of depression will pass. However, this will only happen after you accept your new culture, including the good and the bad parts. However if you want to speed up the process of getting over culture shock some activities that can help include: keeping up a journal, making friends, talking with other international students/advisors, improving your Japanese skills, developing a hobby, joining a club, or traveling. I personally kept a journal and traveled, which helped me tremendously.

Another thing to be aware of, is that it happens in reverse as well. After getting fully integrated with your new culture, coming back home creates reverse culture shock! This is especially prevalent for those who study abroad for a full year. All of a sudden you are frustrated with how things are back at home and long to return to your host country. Applying the same techniques as for the initial culture shock also apply here, particularly talking with other students who have studied abroad before.

The good news for vacationers is that this really doesn’t apply to you. You will still be on the pre-culture shock high for pretty much all of your vacation unless you plan on spending over a month in Japan. So enjoy yourself, and for those who plan to stay longer, hang in there, it gets better!

Culture Shock Curve Example (from http://manaspecialcreature.blogspot.com)

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