Culture Shock essay

In this stage, the sojourner attempts to discover familiar patterns in the new culture (and in doing so begins to construct cultural stereotypes), and is seeking to impose her/his own order and meaning onto this new world. This natural tendency Milton Bennett calls ‘sympathy in that one is trying to interpret events as if they were being carried out in a familiar culture (1 979, 13. 4 Unfortunately, all of this often makes little or no sense. As the expatriate trios to impose the meanings that events, words, and actions would have in his or her own native culture, little or nothing computes.The severity of culture shock depends, of course, on the amount of difference between the two cultures and the amount of travel experience the individual has previously had [Hays, 1972, p. 88].

This second stage is the crisis stage of the culture shock syndrome and is compounded by the natives’ seeming indiffernce to the probiJms. Here is the poor expLtriate trying to make sense out of it all and no one seems to care. And at this point the expatriate will lash out and condemn “them” for their crazy ways of doing things. The negative impact on business communications is obvious here!At the third stage, the choice is now either fight or flight [Craig, 1979, pp. 168-170] Unfortunately, before getting to this third stage, many individuals find the second stage so overwhelming that they decide to quit.

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Rahim reports that the rate of return he found in a 1 983 study was from 25-40% [1983, p. 31 2]. Peace Corps programs have had as much as a 60% dropout rate for overseas trainees. For the individuals who decide to see the situation through, the ituation seems nearly overwhelming, Despite that, they determine to handle the matter.How this is done depends on a number of variables which will also determine just how successful the person becomes as a businessperson in the new environment.

The truly successful ones are those who pass through the fourth stage and learn to accept the “foreign” way as Just one other way of doing’things. After this stage, life becomes more tolerable, though never simple [Oberg, 1961, pp. 178-9]. Resolution of culture shock can take several courses, not all of which encourage effective business communication.

One option is xenophobia; the other culture is totally rejected.In this Instance, departure is probably the best resolution. Some practice a less harmful variant and become Members of The American Colony’ and hide out in the compound.

At the other extreme is xenophilia: the sojourner embraces the new culture and rejects the old (something that happens occasionally with Peace Corps Volunteers). Although the latter option seems desirable, it is not. The sojourner orginally came to share a culture that he or the now totally rejects. Efficiency suffers naturally. A balanced approach is probably the best.While the individual’s feelings towards the new culture may not be neutral, they are not strong either way. Thus, the individual can function (and communicate) in the new culture without losing perspective on the old.

In fact, the self-effacing sojourner may be 5 seen as highly suspect and insincere by the native population which expects a difference [Craig, 1979, p. 1 13. Impact Business Communication. How all of this confusion impacts on business communication cern easily be seen. The disoriented expatriate businessperson frustrated by endless anxieties finds his or her communication deteriorating.Not only is this new ulture confusing, but life must go on as normally as possible if one is to keep one’s position. Appointments must be kept, acquaintances made, and problems resolved. Rahim [1 983, p.

3131 notes that key expatriate executives may be called on to communicate in six major categories: External relations Headquarters relations Family relations Internal relations Home government relations Host government relations Clearly, an expatriate might very well be expected to be an effective communicator.Yet, when the culture shock bound businessperson tries to carry on as he or she would normally, results are less than satisfactory or even non-existant. While the old familiar ways do not work, they are often all that the new expatriate has to call on. The result is anxiety.

J. Bennett notes that two very contradictory systems vie for equal time. All we have held sacred is reflected in a distortion mirror, and the mage flashed back throws us off balance, a sort of cultural fun-house whose previous orientations contribute little or nothing to the survival of the psyche [1977, p.

73. As Hays notes, “most of the rules relating to behavior standards are culture bound in the sense that they are uniquely generated and taught to help the individual get along in that particular culture’ 1 972, p883. In the new culture, one not only does not know what to do but feels thwarted by being unable to act. The individual “Is left with a void in the set of assumptions upon which he can base his behavior and expectations. ” [Hays, 1972, p. 88].And, for the expatriate with no skills in the new language, much of the problem may lie with Sapir and Whorf’s theory that language provides a guide to social reality as well as a communication medium.

For these two, language influences perceptions and transmits thoughts, as well as helping pattern them. It is a frame of reference that determines he perceptions and thoughts of cultural members. Thus, the differing labels for signs or concepts may also indicate different thought processes are involved. [1 976, p.

93 6 Being immersed in the whole situation, the individual often does not even realize that he or she is suffering from culture shock. Ironically, the trainee may never have run into the concept In training [Hays, 1972, p. 88]. Frustration and depression result since the traveler forgets the need for self examination and analysis of relationships with others [Maddox, 1971, p28). Finding that time-tried techniques for interaction simply do not work, the rustrated sojourner may abandon all support systems that just might see him or her through.Just why culture shock has such a profound effect on business (or any other type of) communication is not far to seek. Samovar and Porter’s [1976, 9.

10] communication variables determined by culture are of value here because they clearly illustrate why this clash Is so great: 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Attitudes Social Organization Thought Patterns Roles Language Skill Space Time Sense Nonverbal Communication By their very nature, these variables are going to affect the long-term businessperson.The thought patterns for xample, are going to create problems as the North American sender follows one pattern and his Saudi Arabian counterpart another. Or the roles to be played can interfere as the North American superior tries to get her Indian subordinate to engage in participative management. Or consider the North American who is doing a slow backwards dance across the room as his Greek counterpart repeatedly closes in on his space all the while wondering just why the North American Is so unfriendly.Or what of the sojourner who arrives promptly for a meeting with the Emir only to find that others are already waiting for earlier appointments.

And, when the Emir finally sees the American, others interrupt repeatedly to the latter’s annoyance. Culture shock, plain and simple, is a communication problem. If effective communication involves the mutual exchange of information which precedes right action, It cannot be achieved If one of the parties cannot effectively encode the messages that he/ she wishes to send or accurately decode those received.

The sojourner attempts to interpret what Is perceived but has only the light of her or his own experience as a guide. And in the new culture, entirely new patterns are involved. At the minimum, two separate symbol ystems are being applied by the two communicators. And the commonality of background may range from slight to nil.

7 Culture shock should come as no surprise, then. The expatriate, used to the familiar communication patterns of his or her own culture, applies meaning to what is being seen, unconsciously of course.

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