The Five Stages of Culture Shock: Critical Incidents around the World

The Five Stages of Culture Shock: Critical Incidents around the World

The Five Stages of Culture Shock: Critical Incidents around the World

The Five Stages of Culture Shock: Critical Incidents around the World

Synopsis

The educational literature suggests that international contact contributes to a comprehensive educational experience. The Five Stages of Culture Shock examines an international shipboard educational program and seeks to identify specific insights resulting from informal extracurricular contact between students and host nationals in the context of culture shock experiences. Using the critical incident methodology, Pedersen analyzes students' responses to nearly 300 specific incidents which resulted in insights that apply to the students' own development, as well as the sociocultural context of the host countries. This use of critical incidents shows one way to evaluate and assess the subjective experiences of the informal curriculum. More broadly, the analysis sheds light on the concept of culture shock as a psychological construct.

Excerpt

Most if not all descriptions of culture shock indicate a progression of attitudes regarding one's self and others from a lower to a higher level of development. The typical description of progression takes the form of a three-to five-stage U-curve starting at a higher stage of fascination, adventure, optimism, or excitement called the honeymoon stage. This is followed by feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, disillusion, alienation, and self-blame as the direction of progression drops from a high to the lowest point on the U-curve. Finally there is a reorientation or recovery stage where the new situation is viewed in perspective, positive and negative elements are balanced, and the person's morale is restored (Coffman and Harris, 1984). As pointed out earlier, the actual progression of culture shock is seldom as neat and orderly as a U-curve suggests. Only rarely will a person achieve as high a level of functioning in the host culture as in the previous home culture, suggesting a backward J-curve as perhaps more authentic.

If the U-curve hypothesis described culture shock perfectly then one would expect all students to write critical incidents illustrating the honeymoon stage in the first several ports of Nassau, Caracas, or San Salvador, and incidents illustrating bicultural/multicultural perspectives in Hong Kong, Keelung, or Kobe. That did not occur. Although there were slightly more stage-one critical incidents earlier in the voyage and slightly fewer stage-one critical incidents later in the voyage, the individual students seemed to report incidents at each level regarding each port, country, or culture.

There are several possible explanations for this apparent confusion. First, some cultures or countries may seem more familiar than others, resulting in different reactions. Second, culture shock may be multidimensional so that one aspect of the student may be functioning at a higher level than other dimensions. Third, the U-curve may be two-directional, where the student may regress as well as progress on this developmental curve. Fourth, the scoring or measurement of the critical incidents may be faulty or inadequate. Fifth, the sample may be too small, disguising a general trend or tendency which would become more pronounced with a larger number of observations for each student author. Sixth, there may be U-curves within U-curves so that having . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.