Learn about Culture Shock and adapting to U.S. customs and culture to make the most of your time working and traveling in the United States.
One of the best opportunities you will have during your time in the United States is to learn about American culture. The American way of life may be very different from your own, and that difference is part of your cultural exchange experience. Your time in the U.S. is designed to be a great learning opportunity, so take advantage of it!
You will discover new things about Americans every day, and as a result you may decide to change some of your behaviors in order to adapt. Adaptation is not always easy, but it’s also important to remember that you are temporarily in the United States for a new learning experience; you will be returning to your familiar lifestyle afterward, so it’s important to be flexible about making changes to how you do things. The key to a successful program is to stay positive and explore all the opportunities given to you.
Read more about Adjusting to a New Culture from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Some American customs may seem strange to people from other countries, but knowing about them may help you better adapt during your stay in the U.S.
Feeling a little overwhelmed, tense and anxious by a new culture is a normal experience known as “culture shock.” If these emotions are affecting your everyday life and interfering with your work and social life, you may want to ask for help. Browse our recommendations for recognizing and dealing with culture shock during your time in the United States.
Adapting to American culture is important, but InterExchange programs also provide an opportunity to share your own culture when interacting or working with Americans. As a cultural ambassador of your country, sharing details about life at home is also a good way to start a conversation about cultural exchange, and it is also a good way to build up self-confidence by speaking about a topic you know plenty about – your home! Plus, intercultural skills are important assets in the workplace and in our globalized world, and will be an advantage to you in the future.
Here are some tips on how to share your own experiences with co-workers and friends:
The United States has a unique “melting pot” culture that combines customs from people from all over the world. As an InterExchange program participant, you’ll have one of the best opportunities to experience American culture by living and working in the U.S. and interacting with many different types of people. Many U.S. customs may seem odd or uncomfortably different from those of your home country. Being in a new and unfamiliar place can be challenging even for the experienced traveler, and feelings of isolation and frustration can occur. This is totally normal and is often described as culture shock.
Culture shock can happen suddenly, and it can make enjoying your new situation much more difficult. If you find yourself feeling out of place or sad, try to determine what the cultural differences are that are making you feel this way and consider a few different ways to overcome these feelings. It's important to recognize that you’ll only feel this way for a limited amount of time and that you play a big role in how long it lasts. By overcoming culture shock, you’ll be better able to make the most of your experience in the United States.
If your symptoms persist or are more severe than the symptoms listed, ask your doctor or health care professional for advice to address your concerns.
As always, whenever you need assistance, the InterExchange team is here to provide advice and support.