Being in a new culture can feel sometimes like being in a fog – you can’t see your way forward. Try these suggestions for understanding your surroundings and developing new skills. Resources including Best Practices and Coaching Videos are readily available for clients.

Making Sense of New People and Things

This feeling is like your managing uncertainty score from the GCA Report, which is about agility, and a mental, plus emotional, elasticity. Your score may be influenced by outlook, potential alternatives, lifestyle pace, confrontation with more choices than you ever dreamed of, value differences, and amazing frequency of how much everything just seems so new (and sometimes weird). We’ve all faced new contexts, systems, and encountered distressing uncertainties such as rules or communication styles. In fact, you may be hitting the wall of your comfort with conflict, how people organize things compared with how you always did things, or just unclear knowledge of expectations. All such situations can leave you asking, “what are the cultural rules here?”

We wish everyone were free from worries, problems, and restrictions, especially those affecting somebody’s future situation. It turns out, however, that it is normal to hit this level of discomfort in cultural adjustment where changes seem very unpleasant, difficult, or even wrong. So we want to recommend you know why you are feeling this way and consider some helpful skills.

Best Practices
  • Remember importance of cultural adaptability
  • Avoid hasty generalizations and control frustration responses
  • What tolerance skills work in this culture?
  • Cultivate a cultural confidant to help
  • Explore why disorganization or vagueness feel so bad to you

I Miss Home and This Makes Me Unhappy

When everything seems out of sorts and disorienting, you may be dealing with low flexibility. Your GCA Report measures this concept as how easily you fit into a new environment or different conditions that are filled with vague or uncertain conditions. It can feel as if there is no way this situation or personal dilemma is even capable of being modified, so the result is a sinking feeling and a horrible pit of hopelessness in your stomach. The good news is that if you can engage what you don’t know (called ambiguity) and accept disorganization or vagueness, then you’ve already begun to conquer this feeling. The starting point is to consider your beliefs regarding flexing and adjusting to new lifestyles or language. See if you can start overriding inflexible attitudes which may be feeding some of your other thoughts or actions.

Best Practices

As you try cultural media, they may suggest a way to flex. Sometimes, simply launching out to try new foods, places, and methods while continuing to learn nuances of language and culture can be a great place to start. It helps a lot of people to remember to avoid emotional outbursts, hasty generalizations, and control frustration responses the best you can. Finally, you can look inward and see why disorganization or vagueness feel bad. Also,

  • Ask why flexibility seems uncomfortable
  • Find a cultural mentor to ask how the culture does flexibility
  • Avoid judgment; first seek to understand
  • Try new foods, places, and procedures
  • Learn basic language terms
  • How did you manage previous seemingly inflexible moments? Why is this different?
  • Identify uncertainties and fears. What worked to overcome these feelings in other, similar situations? Could you transfer what worked before and visualize those previous successes working in this situation?
  • Everyone goes through some culture shock. U-curve stages are okay and normal: (1) euphoria; (2) discouragement (including reactions of fight, flight, or filtering); and (3) balance of everything. Culture shock may be pulling you down and you are just now realizing it.