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Culture Shock After Moving to France

"Theodore Roam (known as Toto to his friends) and his wife Dorothy had been in France for 3 months. They had been feasting on foie gras and duck, onion soup and cassoulet and were finally ready for a home cooked meal (home cooked in Wichita that is). They reserved a table at a fine restaurant and both ordered the only item on the menu that had the word 'steak' in it. Imagine their surprise when the waiter approached them carrying 2 mounds of raw chopped meat with a raw egg sitting in the cratered top. The waiter leaned over with an oversized peppermill and said something in French. 'What did he say?' Toto asked. Dorothy answered, 'he said, "Toto I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"

At last you're settled and life can return to normal. Behind you are frantic weeks of packing and unpacking, long hours on airplanes, stress and fatigue and the inevitable house hunting. Now you are finished with this tedious phase and ready to pursue being an international resident in France. This will be an exciting time, filled with newness, change, and the ever-important need to adjust to a new culture. We would like to make you aware of this process of adjustment so that your stay in France is enriched by the cultural differences, rather than overwhelmed by them.

To understand culture shock or the adjustment to a new culture is to first realize that much of our own behavior is culturally bound and not individually initiated. Like the mother tongue we speak, we have learned our own culture gradually over a long period of time. The way to do things was often the way 'they' did things. We have forgotten this learning and internalization process as it occurred so long ago. However, when you suddenly uproot yourself from your original culture and begin living in a new one, the one thing you become aware of, quite quickly, is that 'things are sure done differently here!' This then, is your initial step into culture shock that will ultimately lead to cultural awareness. Dr. Kalervo Oberg first defined culture shock in the 1960's; an anthropologist who said culture shock is initiated by "the anxiety that results from losing familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?

Being cut off from cultural signals and known patterns of communication, especially the subtle, indirect ways of expressing feelings. Living or working over an extended period of time in a situation that is ambiguous.

Having your values (which were previously considered absolutes) brought into question. Being continually put into positions in which you are expected to function with maximum skill and speed, but where the rules have not been adequately explained.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF CULTURE SHOCK?

Homesickness

Withdrawal (ex: spending excessive amounts of time reading and avoiding contact with local nationals) Chauvinistic excesses Stereotyping of host nationals

Need for excessive amounts of sleep

Marital stress

Loss of ability to work effectively

Compulsive eating or drinking

Unexplainable fits of weeping

Irritability

Physical ailments (psychosomatic illness)

Boredom

Exaggerated cleanliness

Family tension & conflict

DEALING WITH INTERCULTURAL STRESS & SHOCK

1. GATHER INFORMATION

The more you know about a place or people, the less foreign or threatening they seem. You may wish to travel locally, take a cooking class, or join a club.

2. DO NOT CRITICIZE THE HOST CULTURE

Resist the temptation of talking negatively about the local people.

For many more proven techniques for minimizing your stress and maximize the ease of your adaptation into the French culture,



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