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Tuesday Tidbits :: On Culture Shock

Culture Shock, according to, is defined as "a state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment."

Picture someone who had never traveled outside the US suddenly finding herself living half a world away in Northern Africa. That was me several months after I got married in the early 1990's. It was one of the finest experiences of my life but not without a great deal of initial discomfort as the company that sent us to live in Egypt for three years provided no cross-cultural training. Not only was the language different but societal norms were different as well. I found out that telling someone you really liked their necklace resulted in them feeling obligated to give it to you and that sitting with the bottom of your foot pointed towards someone is an insult. A little understanding ahead of time would most certainly have saved some embarrassing cultural interactions!

But, Culture Shock, if you look closely at the above definition, can also pertain to unfamiliar situations, even within your own country. Think about the first time you went to a network meeting to promote your business. Not many people are immediately comfortable walking into a group of strangers and giving a 30-second 'Elevator Speech'.

Online Site WikiHow has 7 Steps for Overcoming Culture Shock in a foreign country:

1. Keep an open mind

2. Make an effort to learn the local language

3. Get acquainted with the social conduct of your new environment

4. Do not take cultural familiarity or knowledge at face-value

5. Make sure you get to know the people in your new environment

6. Try to achieve a sense of stability in your life

7. Most importantly, maintain a sense of humor!

If you think about it, don't those tips apply to networking as well? The best networking is finding a group of individuals who make you feel like you’re welcome into their Culture and in doing so for others who may be feeling their own brand of Culture Shock.

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