Is ‘Culture Shock’ Such a Bad Thing?

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According to Wikipedia, ‘Culture shock’ is “the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, or to a move between social environments.”

Many people have different views on culture shock (and whether it’s a good or a bad thing), but perhaps the most notable is that of the famous travel writer Bill Bryson:

“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson

After reading Bill Bryson’s for the first time, I began to wonder whether culture shock wasn’t just not a bad thing, but actually somewhat of a good thing.

Of course, while I’m suggesting that culture shock might be a good thing, I’m not for a second implying that it is a pleasant thing.

That being said, just because an experience isn’t necessarily enjoyable, doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Culture shock might be initially unpleasant, but it will have a positive effect on you in the long run.


Let’s put this into context. Think of someone you know who went traveling to countries far-away and no doubt experienced a massive culture shock at some point. In order to get by, they’ll have had to be adaptable, open-minded, creative and resourceful.

When that person returned from their travels, were they more confident, open-minded and adaptable? More than likely.

Adaptability, open-mindedness, creativity and resourcefulness are all desirable traits to have, so it seems experiencing yourself to a little culture shock can help to nurture these traits and help them grow.

At the end of the day, culture shock = personal growth.

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