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Commander, Navy Installations Command
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Culture Shock


Culture shock expresses the feeling of not knowing what or how to do things in a new environment. The feeling of culture shock normally sets in after the first few weeks of coming to a new place. It is a normal, predictable phenomenon.

Everything is different -- the language, the customs; not knowing how to use the telephone or the bus.  It is a great opportunity for learning and acquiring new perspectives. You may feel sad or lonely.

Your sleep habits will be out of synch; and you or your family members may feel angry or irritable. You may begin to develop a sense of insecurity or inadequacy. Many of the things you've heard or assumed about your new environment may turn out not to meet your expectations. These are normal symptoms associated with the huge change that is taking place in your life and it is important to realize that these feelings are temporary. Soon you will begin to adapt and understand many aspects of the new culture and develop a sense of balance as you settle into your job and your routines. You'll realize that the differences between this culture and your previous one are significant.

Some people deal with the culture differences quickly and easily. Others need more time. Do not worry. Do not try to do too much all at once. Set your own pace and keep an open mind. Here are some positive strategies for combating stress produced by culture shock:

  • Be patient as you experience the process of adapting to new situations.
  • Develop a hobby.
  • Don't forget the good things you already have!
  • Learn to be constructive. If you encounter an unfavorable environment, don't put yourself in that position again. Be easy on yourself.
  • Learn to include a regular form of physical activity in your routine. This will help combat the sadness and loneliness in a constructive manner. Exercise, swim, or take an aerobics class.
  • Relaxation and meditation have proven to be positive activities for people who are experiencing periods of stress.
  • Allow yourself to feel sad about the things that you have left behind, but maintain contact with your friends and family.  This will give you a feeling of belonging, and will help reduce your feelings of loneliness.
  • Begin to integrate with your new culture. Learn the language. Volunteer in community activities that allow you to practice the language that you are learning. This will help you feel less stress about language and useful at the same time.
  • Remember, you are not alone. Each week many new people arrive in Italy and are faced with the same transition challenges. Pay attention to relationships with your family and at work. They will serve as support for you in difficult times.
  • If you feel stressed, look for help.

There is always someone or some service available to help you. Each week many new people arrive in Italy and are faced with the same transition challenges. Visit with them. If you're having problems dealing with culture shock, your command and Fleet and Family Support Center are excellent resources to help you through this sometimes difficult process.

Look at this assignment as a rare opportunity. The majority of people who visit Italy do so in a rush and see the country from the inside of a bus or train. Your experience will offer you a more accurate view of life in Italy, and here you will find friends and experiences that will last a lifetime. You do not have to become an Italian. Italians expect you to be different, and they respect the fact that Americans have their own way of doing things. This two-way understanding is only possible if based on mutual respect and understanding.


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