What is culture, and what is culture shock?
She talks about the culture shock that many people encounter when they move to a new country. It can be a very painful experience – especially if they don’t realise that it’s normal, or don’t know what to do about it.
We usually don’t think about our own culture until we move to a new country. Suddenly, things that were normal at home are no longer normal. This includes big things, such as language and ways of thinking. But it also includes the small things, like the clothes you wear and food you eat.
People who move to a new country typically go through three phases:
- The honeymoon: EVERYTHING is fun and exciting.
- Frustration: The sheer multitude of new things suddenly becomes TOO MUCH. You become irritated, frustrated, etc.
- Adaptation: Slowly you learn to understand the culture and get by.
What can you do if you find yourself in the midst of culture shock?
As frustrations peak, the world may seem unbearably chaotic and the only thing you want to do is go home! Fortunately, there are some things you can do:
- You need to structure your daily life as much as possible and stick to routines, such as work, studying, jogging, etc.
- You should try to be open and see problems as challenges: “Maybe there’s something you can get better at.” Humour also helps.
- You should seek out encounters with people and participate as much as possible in social activities. The social support of others is incredibly important.
- You should pursue your interests. You may find yourself thinking: “I just don’t understand this country, but at least I go to pottery class.”
Example of culture shock
Before coming to Denmark, Anna lived in Sweden for three years. At first she took a course on Sweden and Swedish mentality, which helped her a lot. But then her father died and she was of course very sad.
If she had been in Latvia, people would have asked her how she was doing and whether she needed any help. But in Sweden, the only question people asked was “How was the funeral?”
You just don’t ask that question in Latvia, so it came as a huge culture shock to Anna. She found herself alone in northern Sweden without any close friends to talk to. But her everyday routines helped and she made sure to have something to do every day until she felt better.
Culture and yoghurt
“Culture is like yoghurt – the thing that makes it so great is alive,” says Anna.
In other words, the people who live in a place are who shape the culture of that place. We asked Anna if there is anything particularly difficult about coming to Denmark and “eating Danish yoghurt”?
She pointed to three things:
- Danes are not as accustomed to understanding people who speak with an accent as in many other countries.
- Foreigners experience the Danish “Jantelov”, which means that it’s difficult to be a part of things if you don’t participate in certain ways.
- In Denmark, people typically form their social networks at a young age. This can make it difficult to form a network in Denmark at a later time.
One must always be careful when speaking in generalised terms. But some people say that the Scandinavian countries are like a coconut: “Hard to get into, but once you do, you’re in for good.”
by Giorgio Rossi (Italy, DU3 module 4)
by Ayoob Henry John Farah (Jordan, DU3 module 3)
by Aurelio Raposo (Brazil, DU3 module 3)
by Esther Ferrer Sánchez (Spain, DU3 module 4)
I moved to Denmark because my boyfriend is Danish and he has a job here. I finished my studies last year, so we decided to begin our new life together in Denmark.
I’ve lived in Copenhagen for a year and a half, and now I can say that I’ve been through the three phases of culture shock.
At first, everything was new and exciting and really fun. But after a while, I became depressed. I was sad and missed my family and friends.
Although I’m usually a very active person, I was just staying at home all the time. The weather didn’t help either, because it rained and snowed a lot. But then I began getting used to the different traditions and established a daily routine.
It’s really important to learn Danish if you want to get by in Denmark. It’s also a good way to make friends – and a social network is important to feeling at home in a new country.
The many new experiences I’ve had have really changed me. Overall, I’m really happy with my new life in Denmark.
Your experiences in Denmark
How about you? What was it like for you when you moved to Denmark? Was it difficult? And what was interesting or fun? Leave a comment and tell us about your culture shock!