In addition to material and administrative preparations, interpreting a new environment can be complicated: new languages, new methods of communication, new habits. Therefore, it is useful to understand the difference between the culture you come from and the culture you are about to enter to help you feel immersed.
The values of French culture: culture shock
Living abroad and studying abroad are both enriching experiences. But adapting to a new culture can bring pressure, which can be overwhelming for some people. Culture shock is a set of emotions associated with entering a new culture and encountering an unfamiliar culture. It can be triggered by the loss of familiar cues and symbols in social and everyday interactions: when to shake hands? What should I say in a meeting? When to tip and how to shop? When to take people seriously and when not to take them seriously? Whatever your country of origin, preparation is essential. Tolerate differences, accept misunderstandings and take things in perspective. Try to learn more about French culture, including watching films and participating in cultural activities.
Stages of culture shock
The three main stages of adaptation can be identified: Honeymoon period: the first stage is characterised by euphoria and curiosity about the newness. Confrontation: after a few weeks or months, you start to realise the difference between your culture and the culture of the host country: language, behaviour, ideology, attitude. You start to feel the symptoms of shock: depression, anger, anxiety. This can lead to rejection of the host culture. Adaptation: if one overcomes this crisis, by deepening language skills, building friendships, integrating local habits into daily life and trying to accept cultural differences, one will open one’s heart to new cultures. At this stage, one will regain self-confidence, and even be surprised to think like the locals.
Preventing culture shock
There are ways to minimise the negative effects of this syndrome and enjoy the experience to the full. Knowing France: understanding daily life in France, familiarising yourself with French traditions, customs and habits, understanding the geography, weather, political situation, signs of courtesy and rules of courtesy, discovering French values, beliefs and behavioural culture. The more you know, the faster you will adapt. The response to culture shock will depend on the success of the integration. Avoid criticism and dualistic assessments of what you find, try to rationalise and step back. Don’t stay away, don’t hold back, take time to observe, listen and ask questions.