Chinese menu in South West China

Culture shock and how to handle it

When travelling half the way around the world to begin a new adventure in a culture so different from your own then it is probably no wonder why many new TEFL teachers suffer from a hefty initial dose of culture shock. Here’s a look at some of the stages of culture shock and how to handle them.

1) The honeymoon phase 

Firstly comes the honeymoon phase. On moving to a new culture, you will tend to look at your new environment through rose tinted lenses, seeing the good points of all difference you encounter . This will almost certainly start with loving the Chinese food. Noodles will look so delicious and feel so authentic, the loudness of the busy streets and markets will seem endearing and you will be eager to photograph almost every aspect of your new life. From the cute students at your school to the unusual live fish sold in your local Beijing Hua Lian (a supermarket). This phase is great and the days or weeks which you live through it will surely be most enjoyable, however, as with all honeymoons, all too suddenly it will end.

2) Negotiation

After a short while and upon ending of the honeymoon phase you will go through a stage of negotiation. Differences between your home and China become all too apparent and create frustration at all inconvenient differences. Observation of language barriers and differences in public behavior and etiquette will give rise to frustration and anger. The feeling of being an outsider will become all to apparent to your self consciousness and this may cause homesickness and a longing for a familiar environment. Family and friends from home may be increasingly yearned for and the change in microbial flora and hygiene will almost certainly give rise to numerous stomach upsets and sickness.

For a period, life will seem miserable and you may find yourself questioning your choice to come to this new land. This will be a low point and it is key to remember that by holding strong and continuing at this point that better things are on the way.

The timing of the negotiation stage varies from person to person but generally lasts one to three months. Fight through it and you will reach stage three, adjustment.

3) Adjustment

Eventually, upon climbing your way out of negotiation, you will reach the adjustment stage. You will grow accustomed to your new environment and handle day to day situations such as going to the supermarket and getting a new haircut with ease. At this point you will probably have made considerable progress with the local language and be able to communicate a whole variety of basic expressions and requests. Your daily life will once again feel normal and cultural experiences which in the past alienated and intimidated you will now feel manageable and normal.

Your knowledge of multiple cultures will enable you to start to see the world in a new light and you will begin to take the best out of both cultures to further improve and enjoy your life.

4) Mastery 

Once you have spent a longer time in China, you will eventually master culture shock. Both cultures will feel natural and you will be able to live as comfortably in China as back home. When at rock bottom in stage 2 it is easy to forget about the future goal of mastering your challenges, but handle your new life one day at a time, stay focused on the ultimate outcome and culture shock will be gone in no time.

Interested in working in China and want to find out more? Our UK agency ensures that schools are up to top standard and provides an additional layer of protection and reassurance when negotiating issues with your Chinese school. To find out the latest vetted and quality assessed top providers in China check out  

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