Photo by Jeremy Noble
The United States is called a "melting pot": a place where people from countries all over the world come to build their lives and homes. The U.S. is home to people from all different cultures and nationalities. Each group has its own background, customs and values, which form what we call American culture. It is a culture that is continually being reshaped and redefined as more people from other countries immigrate to the U.S., but it is also influenced by the visitors who share information about their cultures when they interact with people who live in this country.
One of the best opportunities you will have over the course of your time in the United States is to learn more about American culture. That's what cultural exchange is all about. 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. Remember that adaptation is part of the fun of experiencing a new culture. It is not always easy, but 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.
Part of the excitement of living in a new culture is learning about how it differs from your own culture. You might compare your values and customs with the new values and customs you observe every day. 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!
We've also created a list of recommended sites and activities for you to enjoy while you're in the U.S. Take a look and discover new places and aspects of American culture:
Keep in mind that the following characteristics are generalizations, and as with any country or culture, there are many exceptions and lifestyles that may be quite different.
Culture shock is described as the anxiety, feelings of frustration, alienation and anger that may occur when a person is placed in a new culture. Many of the customs here 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 some feelings of isolation and frustration are totally normal. Participants experience culture shock to varying degrees; some hardly notice it at all, while others can find it very difficult to adapt to their new environment. Many may not attribute their problems to culture shock. Whatever the case may be, understanding these issues and why they happen will help you.
You can also find some information about culture shock on our website at:
Like all rewarding experiences, being a participant in a cultural exchange program is sometimes difficult. Staying healthy and dealing with your stress will help to make your time abroad more fun, and improve your interactions in the workplace. Use these tips to make your days easier:
You should always try to speak in English during your program. You may be uncomfortable with your skills and even feel embarrassed, but you will quickly notice that people will correct your mistakes in a positive way. Your English abilities will improve through your mistakes. Everyone will appreciate your willingness and desire to improve.
The worst mistake you can make is to keep silent. If you don't speak, your employer may think you are incapable of performing your job. You must be able to communicate. Practice and repetition are the only ways you will improve your English skills.
If you don't speak English and only speak in your native tongue, it will be harder to get to know people who cannot speak your native language. Because English is being spoken by everyone around you, speaking English will enable you to make friends with people from many cultures. These friendships are some of the most rewarding elements of the program.