What? I don’t have to say “professor” and I can refer to my lecturers by their first name? Why do people say thank you all the time? These are some of the many questions I had when I experienced culture shock. Honestly I did not believe that culture shock was real until I experienced it myself.
Culture shock is the mix of emotions you feel when you experience an unfamiliar place and culture. Those who experience culture shock can feel conflicted, confused, depressed, and lonely. There are three stages of cultural shock: excitement, disillusionment, and adaptation. In the beginning, I was excited to start a new life, make new friends, and explore New Zealand. Then my cultural shock got quite nasty. I felt out of place, I didn’t understand the locals and they didn’t understand me. I was pessimistic about everything. I questioned everything. Where aren’t there any malls in Wellington city? Why do the shops close so early? How am I supposed to live without 7-Eleven? Why is it so quiet? I felt uncomfortable and unhappy. As time went on, I learned to appreciate the differences and make the most out of what is here. For example, instead of going to the mall, I take walks on the waterfront. Culture shock is normal when living in a new environment but it can be really difficult, especially for those who have not had much experience living abroad.
My advice to those experiencing culture shock is to find the things that you are comfortable with to make you feel at home, such as food or activities. Then try to get to know the local culture better by going out and exploring; find something new to eat, watch a New Zealand film, and talk to the locals. A better understanding of local culture and practices helps you to draw similarity between your culture and kiwi culture, as well as to appreciate the positive aspects of the local culture.
Also come and talk to V-ISA! Our ‘V-ISA hour’ is in the VUWSA meeting room (Student Union building) every Wednesday 2.00-4.30pm. We want to get to know YOU better! Pop by to have a chat, a rant, or to laze around. We’re pretty cool with that.
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Facebook: V-ISA (VUWSA International Students’ Association)