International Centre

Cultural adjustment

 

Everybody who moves to another country experiences feelings of distress, confusion, nervousness and loss of confidence - but you can help yourself to adjust to your new home.

This general sense of unease is sometimes described as ‘culture shock’. If you begin to experience these feelings, don’t worry, it is normal and will soon pass.

As you settle in and come to terms with the differences in culture, language, people, social customs and life in your new environment, you will start to enjoy the change and experience new found energy.

Helping yourself 

The first step in coping with the feelings is being aware that what you are going through is normal. Some other steps you can take include:

Be positive
Concentrate on the positive aspects of your decision to come to Australia to study and try to dismiss any negative thoughts you are having.
Examine your expectations
When confronted with situations that make you uncomfortable or unhappy, examine your expectations. Were you realistic in your preconceived notions of life and people of Australia? Have you generalised too much? Are you too rigid in your mind set? Try to be flexible and change to meet your new circumstances.
Listen and observe
Human beings are different everywhere. Their behaviour and methods of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, are a result of their history, cultural and social systems. The correctness or incorrectness of their ways compared to yours is not important. You are in Australian society – listen, observe and learn so that you don’t interpret or communicate the wrong signals.
Ask questions
If you don’t understand something, including what people are saying or gestures that are used, ask them. You will find most people are happy to take the time to explain things to you.
Go out and explore
Learning to function in a new culture requires effort and contact. Don’t be too shy to meet people or get involved in social activities. Cross-cultural interaction can be difficult but it can also be fun. Try and see the humorous side of uncomfortable situations and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. With time, understanding and knowledge you will soon become ‘multicultural’.
Talk it out
If you come from a culture where people don’t talk about their problems, attempt to overcome this. Talking about your adjustment problems, especially to other new international students, will lighten the burden and make you realise that these problems are quite common.
Seek help
If you continue to have problems adjusting, seek help. Speak to the International Student Adviser or a counsellor from Student Services.