By Julie R Butler
It’s a shock to exactly nobody that Mexico and the United States have very different cultures. Yet culture shock still happens, particularly when people from the States come to Mexico for the first time and vice versa. But it’s not limited to first-time visitors, and in fact, it can even occur when you return to your home country after being away for a while. So let’s take a look at what this all means for people whose lives are intertwined with the cultures of both Mexico and the United States.
What Is Culture Shock?
Culture shock is usually defined in terms of disorientation when experiencing an environment that is unfamiliar, and it’s most commonly associated with travel or moving to another country. But if you look at culture shock as a subset of the general phenomenon of “transition shock,” I think it puts things into perspective and can help you cope with the normal human reactions to change.
Change always requires adjustment, and the process of adjusting can involve all kinds of emotional ups and downs that go along with a sense of loss of control. But in the end, it’s all part of a process of personal growth that can enhance adaptability, resiliency, empathy, and many other life skills that will make you a stronger person.
Four Stages of Culture Shock
How each individual reacts to cultural change varies greatly. However, there are basically four stages of culture shock, which don’t necessarily play out for everyone or occur progressively.
- Honeymoon. This is the infatuation stage. You’re curious, enthusiastic about engaging with your new environment, and in love with everything about it.
- Frustration. This is the hard part. Your idealized view of the culture is chipped away by the reality that you can’t get a handle on how things work, you’re having trouble adjusting to the daily rhythms, communicating is a constant challenge, underlying problems are becoming visible, you’re starting to get annoyed by things that seemed quaint at first, you miss people and things from home, etc.
- Adjustment. Eventually, you begin to get more used to your surroundings and start feeling more comfortable.
- Adaptation. You’re settling in, getting familiar with the routines, maybe even feeling a sense of belonging.
Reverse Culture Shock
When you leave your comfort zone to experience a different culture, it changes you, so don’t expect that you will feel the same about your home culture when you return. At the same time, don’t expect those who remained there to identify with the new you. All this can lead to reverse culture shock, when you feel out of place and disoriented all over again.