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Culture Adjustment

Welcome! Now that you are here…

Phases of cultural adjustment

  • Excitement 
    When first arriving in a country, people usually have a tourist-like excitement and are eager for new experiences.

  • Irritation 
    After a while, the newness wears off and homesickness, withdrawal, or irritation begins. Do not judge yourself too severely if you feel frustrated or want to retreat. It happens to almost everyone. 

  • Adjustment 
    You may continue to experience some highs and lows, but you develop a deeper cultural understanding and have a better perspective.  You may develop a sense of humor about your situation.

  • Adaptation 
    You begin to feel more comfortable with U.S. culture and are able to live and work to your full potential.

How to Culturally Adjust

Make friends by inviting people to events

Get to know your coworkers.  

Don’t expect too much of yourself in the beginning

Keep realistic expectations to avoid disappointment. You will need more time to accomplish tasks (such as reading an article or writing a paper) in a new academic environment and in a new language.

Keep your sense of humor

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as they are part of learning. Talk about and be able to laugh at your mistakes. The ability to tolerate imperfection is critical because everyone fails at something when moving to a new country.

Stay busy and get involved with hobbies

Clubs and associations include almost every interest, such as travelling, cooking, writing, dining out, sailing and water sports, and more. If you love to read books or watch films, for example, join a book or movie club. If you like nature, join hiking clubs or environmental organizations. Try something new that you have always wanted to do but have never done before.

Write one thing a day that you like about your new environment and keep the list.  It is natural to go through phases of criticizing American culture and also your own culture but seeing a list of positive things will help adjust your perspective.

Spend time with Americans

Be curious. Do not be afraid to ask questions and get honest feedback about your interpretation of American customs, values, and behaviors. If you make the effort to make friends with Americans, they will provide you with valuable insight into the country and culture that you will not receive by interacting with fellow foreigners.

Meet people from your home country

Make friends with people who are from your home country but do not spend all your time with fellow citizens. 

Be mindful of stereotypes

Resist making jokes, stereotypes, and negative comments about Americans and the U.S. Focus on the positive aspects of the new culture.

Stay connected with people from home

Write emails or use social media to connect with family and friends at home.  Remember birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. 

Eat comfort food

Find restaurants with food from your home country or buy ingredients from a local ethnic food store to make foods you are used to eating.

Stay diligent about your studies

Keep your self-respect and concentrate on the long-term advantages of study or research in the U.S.

Have a tolerance for ambiguity and for difference

Remain open-minded, flexible, and adaptable. Try to suspend judgment until you look for the logical reasons behind the differences. Be objective and perceptive.  

Keep your self-confidence

Believe you can do it and keep in mind the many strengths and advantages you will have when you succeed in the U.S. You are moving forward in your language skills and adjustment to the American culture even if you don’t feel it. There are ups and downs, but at the end you will realize you have made a lot of progress.