Adapted by Joyce and friends from T. Wayne Dye’s “Stress-producing factors in cultural adjustment” (Missiology 2 1974: 61-77) – “transmogrified Dye”:
How to minimize culture shock/stress:
1. Prepare in advance. Some people recommend keeping a diary (completely confidential of course) of how you are doing in relating to people and places, even before you leave your home country. In other words, get to know yourself and the spaces you are in.
2. Develop skills in empathy; if somebody really upsets you, figure out why. What is it about the way they are or the way they behave that drives you crazy? Are they trying to upset you, or are they operating under a different set of expectations than you are? [Are there certain personal buttons in you that are being pushed?]
3. Develop skills in observation – watch people. What are they wearing? Describe a scene…everything in the room . . . not just what is remarkable, but what is ordinary. Learn to take mental inventories. When you arrive on the scene of a new culture, choose someone to model yourself after. (Someone you can trust).
4. Once you are in the middle of a new place, jump in. The problem is this: stress is inevitable and will inevitably go up the more involved you get with a community. If you aren’t a tourist, you are seriously going to have to concentrate on learning, identifying, and communicating, which will hurt. Our tendency – our instinct – is to avoid pain, so the natural thing to do of course is to run, hide, and then rationalize our failures. The results are littered all over the map – missionary ghettos, wazungu clubs, isolation from the people we thought we came to be with, loneliness and guilt for our failures. So, I hate to say it, but one of the ways to reduce culture stress (in the long run), is also one of the causes for stress in the first place – involvement. [No pain; no gain!]
Thanks for all this, Joyce!!
Additional comment: The key is you. How are you responding to new circumstances? Are you flexible? To Christianinize it a bit, are you demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control. You are going to need a good dose of all of these as well as humility.
It’s okay to think that your way of doing certain things might be a better way, but you have to appreciate that there are other ways of looking at the same issues. There are desired outcomes that you may be totally unaware of. Different cultural value systems can revolutionize the way you think about the world. Focus on remaking you, and the way you think.
Sometimes coping in the middle of culture stress is as basic as telling yourself: “This is normal. It sucks, but it will someday be history. In the meantime, I’m going to try to stay calm and find one thing I really enjoy doing each day. Look forward to your daily treat – raise those endorphine levels!
At the same time get comfortable with the fact that you will never totally fit in anywhere again. If you succeed in moving through the stages of culture shock, even when you return to your “home” culture, you will never totally fit in again. There will always be a part of your “adopted” culture that you have come to love and value. You are now in the realm of third culture people – never fully at home anywhere. Congratulations!