Culture Shock

Culture Shock


Arriving at University can be a very exciting time and new food, culture, people and weather will intrigue you. However, it can also be stressful and after a short while, leaving home and studying in a new country can be a shock to the system. It’s important to realise that culture shock is normal and the process of adapting to a new culture is difficult.

What is it all about?

Culture shock can be described as, ‘a mix of emotions when moving to a new cultural surrounding.’ The feeling of sadness, loss, anger, confusion, stress and anxiety all comes from the challenge of new cultural surroundings.

Practical advice & tips

The causes of Culture Shock

  • Family and friends – being separated from family and friends can be a big stressor.
  • Language – Welsh people can talk very fast so don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask them to repeat something if you don’t understand.
  • Climate - Many students may find the Swansea climate difficult to adapt to, especially if you have come from a warm country. Don’t worry, you will soon adapt and get used to the conditions, just make sure you are equipped for unpredictable weather.
  • Social roles – Some social roles may confuse, surprise or offend you because it’s different to what you are used to e.g. men and women kissing in public.
  • Food – The food may vary completely from your home country but trying local food is an important part of travelling!

Check out ‘Taste of home’ for a map of world cuisine restaurants if you want to feel the comfort of home.

The stages of culture shock

Most people experience culture shock in stages and many go through different phases of this process a number of times, however, the stages may not necessarily happen in this order.

First (honeymoon) stage – you may feel exhilarated, curious and enthusiastic about your new surroundings. Life is good!

Second stage (disintegration) – you may feel bewildered, confused and impatient due to increased awareness of unfamiliar sounds, smells, foods and language. This may cause withdrawal and depression.

Third stage (reintegration) – you may compare the new culture unfavourably with your own and feelings of anger, frustration and irritability may become normal. You may seek reassurance and security from those surrounding them.

Fourth stage (acceptance) – a state of equilibrium where you accept both differences and similarities between cultures. You will become more relaxed, confident and willing to interact with others in new situations.

Fifth stage (independence) – you may embrace the new culture and see life in a different light. You may be confident and able to make decisions based on your own values and needs.

What to look out for?

There are some typical symptoms to look out. These include:

  • Sadness and loneliness
  • Aches, pains, allergies
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Changes in mood, depression, feeling vulnerable
  • Anger, irritability, resentment
  • Loss of identity
  • Lack of confidence
  • Obsessions over cleanliness
  • Longing for family
  • Feeling of being lost or overlooked

Practical advice and tips

Here are a few things you can do to help with your culture shock.

  • Remind yourselves of the positives of studying abroad – new experiences, meeting people, experiencing different culture, personal growth and an excellent education.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends back home. It’s very easy these days to use technology to keep in contact with loved ones from thousands of miles away. Make it a regular thing!
  • Integrate with students from the UK to adapt to the new culture but also make time to meet with other students who are in a similar situation. Making friends will help reduce these feelings.
  • Keep a range of familiar things with you to help you get a sense of home when needed.
  • Find time to exercise to keep yourself fit and health and take your mind off any worries. Check out the University sports facilities -
  • Get involved with all the events and initiatives around the University, there is so much to do!

-Check out our social media (@CampusLifeSU) and our ticketing website.
-The Student’s Union have hundreds of societies and sports teams as well as a large amount of social events.

Where to go for further support

Where To Go For Further Support

Some of the following external, online resources can be helpful:

UKCISA guidance

Student training resource 

Chinese students mental health 

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