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Office of International Programs

Cultural Adjustment

What is Culture Shock?
"Culture Shock" is the term used to describe the process of adjustment for a person moving to a new culture and facing a sudden change of environment, language, academic/social setting, food, and climate.

Culture as an Iceberg
To understand cultural differences, it helps to view "culture" as an iceberg. Most of an iceberg is invisible, below the water level. Only a small part can be seen. Only a small part of "culture" is open to view. We can see how people act and we can hear what they say. We may understand or misunderstand what we see and hear, but we can see and hear it. But what people do and say is based on assumptions and values that are invisible, below the level of the water. The behavior is based on the assumptions and values, just as the tip of the iceberg is based on the larger part of the iceberg below the tip.

The culture of a group of people is influenced by their environment and history. It is taught from one generation to the next, as adults instill values and mold our behavior from the time we are babies. We learn not only how to do things such as use utensils or chopsticks, but also the difference between "right" and "wrong," "beautiful" and "ugly," "valuable" or "superfluous." These habits, beliefs and expectations are so embedded into our daily lives that we do not become aware of them until we encounter another culture whose ideas and ways of doing things differ from our own. The better you are able to understand and articulate your own values, the more you will be able to observe and understand the values of your host country without criticizing or judging them.

Coping with Culture Shock
Getting over culture shock and adjusting to your host culture depends mainly on you. You may get help in identifying why you are unhappy, withdrawn, or don’t feel well, but it is you who must take positive steps to help yourself feel better. The sooner you take steps to counteract culture shock, the better off you will be.

Above all, you should remember that culture shock is a normal part of the adjustment process. You will have some of the symptoms, and some of your reactions will be emotional and not very rational. You must be patient with yourself.

Preparing for Winter Weather
Winter in Minot can be a lot of fun if you are prepared. Although you should be very careful to stay safe, there are many ways to enjoy time outside during the winter. Remember to check the weather report every day and anticipate dips in wind chill. Wind chill makes the temperature feel even colder because of high winds. By bundling up, you will be able to spend plenty of time outside in the sunshine to keep your spirits up. You can also check the MSU Campus Calendar to find fun winter activities. Below are some tips to help you get ready.

Dressing for Winter Weather

    • Always wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
    • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
    • Wear a hat that covers your ears. A hat will prevent loss of body heat.
    • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
    • Choose wool over cotton when possible because wool is much warmer.

During a Snowstorm

    • Stay indoors during the storm.
    • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
    • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
    • Watch for Frostbite, which occurs when the skin and body tissue just beneath it freezes. Loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, earlobes, face, and the tip of the nose. If you experience frostbite, cover exposed skin, but do not rub the affected area in an attempt to warm it up. Seek medical help immediately!
    • Watch for Hypothermia, which is a dangerously low body temperature, along with uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If your friend has a temperature is below 95°, seek medical attention immediately. Get the victim to a warm location. Remove wet clothing. Warm the center of the body first by wrapping the person in blankets or putting on dry clothing. Give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Seek medical help immediately!
    • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
    • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.


Last Updated 6 October 2016