Opposite cultures: Should it be a problem?

China 2019

Great Wall of China (Unsplash, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the The European Sting by Ms. Amanda Prata Siqueira Lima, a 23-year old medical student from Uniderp University in Brasil, who just finished her fifth year at the university. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

In today’s world it is no surprise that globalisation is reaching its highest peaks: we have smartphones that can obey to any of our commands, robots that can perform highly risky surgeries, trains that can reach more than 300km/hour in seconds, and a vast quantity of information that was never seen before.

With all that, we get to find out about the vast world we live in, all through the internet, which leads us to an irrefutable desire: travel the hole world. But not everyone are prepared to do such thing, simply because of something that shouldn’t be considered as a problem: culture.

As we all got to study when we were younger, each country has their own culture, habits, food and language; some of these came from thousands of years ago (such as China), leading to a millenary tradition. But what happens when you actually visit places like this? For some people, it can be a difficult and shocking experience, since everything is too different and new from what you’re accustomed to, leading to what we can call as a “culture shock”.

In 1994, Winkelman divided the culture shock in phases or stages: the honeymoon (excitement and positive expectations about the new culture), cultural shock phase (when things start to go wrong and the cultural differences become irritating), adjustment (when you learn how to adjust into the new environment) and adaptation (being successful at managing the new culture).

As seen, this division has been maintained through the years, since in 2016 Jarvinen et al showed the existence of these 4 same phases. But for some authors like Nelson (2014), there can even be added a fifth stage between adjustment and adaptation, called Isolation, which is the confrontation of differences between the person’s lifestyle and expectation.

But why this can be so challenging to some people? Why is it so strange for some people to embrace another culture and be open-minded to their way of living? The reason can come from several things: stress reactions, overload of information, lost of one’s identity (WINKELMAN, 1994), and other factors like lack of cultural comprehension and homesickness. But sometimes, many of the bad experiences caused by cultural shock could be eased by one simple measure: being open-minded.

Having the desire to embrace a place and its people, wanting to know how do they live, what do they eat, what are their beliefs. Being comprehensive about the fact that the world is incredibly big, which gives us the happiest feeling that we can get to travel to endless places, see unimaginable landscapes, collect long lasting memories and create experiences that not all books, internet videos and even classrooms are able to give us; you have to see it for yourself!

Maybe if we changed our point-of-view  we would realise that embracing a culture and wanting to learn as many as you can from it, can definitely change your life and broaden your horizons.


JARVINEM, K.; et al. Culture shock and reverse culture shock. Tampere University of Technology, 2016.

NELSON, V. College Parent Central. The culture shock of adjusting to college. Access in December 15th, 2018. Available on: https://www.collegeparentcentral.com/2014/11/the-culture-shock-of-adjusting-to-college/

WINKELMAN, M. Cultural shock and adaptation. Journal of Counseling & Development. November/December 1994. Volume 73.

About the author

Amanda is a 23-year old medical student from Uniderp University in Brasil, who just finished her fifth year at the university. She is a person who loves listening to music, has hundreds of dreams and a huge desire to travel the world. She hopes to learn new languages and achieve big things, like publishing researches, working in different countries, meeting warm and positive people and hopes that one day every country can have a quality health system, that can reach everyone and that can count with technology to improve people’s health.

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