CulturalShock and Survival in Foreign country
CulturalShock and Survival in Foreign country
TheUnited States has continued to have an influx of immigrants as manypeople come to seek better opportunities than those they left intheir homes countries. Immigrants represent a diverse range ofcultures, and most Americans believe that they help strengthen thesociety through their contributions, especially by promoting thecountry’s economic development (Cox, 1995). Consequently, someimmigrants’ families are more successful than ever before wherethey have unprecedented power in business, schools, and even thegovernment. As such, immigration is seen as an excellent opportunityfor many. However, in most cases, the immigrants experience culturalshock after leaving their native home to live in another socialenvironment with entirely new customs (Cox, 1995). Many immigrantsstruggle to reestablish themselves in the United States by redefiningtheir relationships to the new society without the support of strongfriendships or kinship system they had back home. Consequently, itcauses enormous stress to the immigrants since they enter a newenvironment characterized by language barriers, cultural differences,and limited work choices, which makes the transition and integrationinto the new society even more challenging. Then again, some peoplebelieve that these challenges only face the undocumented immigrantsyet, even those entering the country legally are also experiencingsimilar difficulties (Cox, 1995).
Theimmigrants have dreams of living in a country with equalopportunities for everyone as compared to the situation they leftback home. Using my personal experience, I came from a countrycharacterized by male domination, which causes gender inequalityagainst women. Therefore, I moved to the United States so that I canhave the chance to make decisions about my future without beingforced to choose some options due to fear or a sense of obligation.Similar to my experience, many immigrants believe that life will bebetter in the new country, but instead, they face many problems everyday.
Oneof the most significant challenges faced by the immigrants is alanguage barrier, which hinders a smooth transition to a new culturewhere they hope to achieve a better life. Although some of theimmigrants can speak English, they lack the fluency used by theAmericans when communicating. Accordingly, the language barriershinder the immigrants from making vital connections in their newcommunities (Garret, 2006). Moreover, it becomes increasinglydifficult to carry out various tasks thus, making their lives andtransition into the new country even more difficult. For example,even a simple daily task such as grocery shopping can be overwhelmingwhen a person has difficulties communicating effectively with otherpeople (Garret, 2006). Besides, the language barrier makes it hardfor the immigrants to access various necessities such as healthcareservices. For instance, an immigrant may find it difficult to expressthemselves or talk to the health care provider about their condition,which becomes an obstacle when accessing medical services (Garret,2006).
Additionally,the language barriers hinder the immigrants from getting better jobs.The United States has many job opportunities, but most immigrants whocannot speak English effectively have a hard time taking up thosejobs. In most cases, immigrants come to the United States withdegrees and professional backgrounds. Thus, they come with dreams ofa much better life in a land where everyone has an opportunity forimprovement. However, they hardly get well-paying jobs that match upwith their prior qualifications and experience before they came tothe United States (Huntington, 2004). Most employers are concernedabout the employees work skills, which is unique to their experienceand the education background in the United States. Thus, theimmigrants believe that their lack of American education is the majorhindrance when looking for better job opportunities. In most cases,the certification and expertise outside the United States are usuallynot transferable. For example, it is not hard to find an immigrantworking as a taxi driver when he or she had a reputable job in his orher home country (Huntington, 2004).
Thenagain, it is assumed that immigrants with good education backgroundcan adapt to the new environment relatively easy. However, thereality is quite the opposite as all immigrants still face numerousproblems learning and assimilating into the American culture. Evenso, some people view this trend as not only caused by discriminatingworking situations, but also the attitudes of the immigrants(Huntington, 2004). One of the main concerns for many immigrants isto find well-paying jobs. Hence, they usually get a job once theyarrive in the country to start earning an income and supportthemselves. Therefore, they are more willing to take up low-payingand risky jobs as compared to other workers (Huntington, 2004).
Onthe other hand, communication affects every aspect of life since ithelps people interact with each other. As such, learning English is apriority for most immigrants. However, accessing the English SecondLanguage (ESL) programs can be challenging (Maestro & Ryan,1996). For example, only a few school that offer English classes andmost of the time the classes are incompatible with the immigrantsschedule. Besides, learning English takes time and requirescommitment, which may not fit in the busy schedule of an immigrant.For example, busy lives such as long working hours or school programscan keep new immigrants from participating in ESL programs. Hence,the opportunities to learn are available, but it is not alwaysconvenient for the immigrants in need (Maestro & Ryan, 1996).
Theimmigrants face cultural differences where they experience a greatdisparity between their old cultures back home and the new Americancustoms (Zavodny & Orrenius, 2009). Generally, people are broughttogether by their similar cultural attitudes, norms, values beliefs,perceptions, and patterns of behavior, which can be used to identifypeople in a certain community. When the immigrants move to a newcountry, they are exposed to different lifestyles, music, fashion,communication styles, foods, and other types of culturalrepresentations that may cause cultural shock. For example, theAmerican culture is largely characterized by democratic, open, andindividualist norms. Thus, when immigrants come to the United States,they have to adjust and correspond to what the American societyexpects of them since it will help them relate to other people.Therefore, the immigrants struggle to achieve a balance betweenmaintaining their native customs and adopting the American culture tofit in with their peers (Zavodny & Orrenius, 2009)
Furthermore,the immigrants lack identification with the new culture even afterthey learn to speak English. From my personal experience, I have agood command of English, but my accent is neither American norIndian. Although I like to view myself as a global citizen, it makesme confused since I cannot identify with the new culture and my oldcultural identification a not viable option in this new socialenvironment. Similar to my experience, other immigrants cannot helpbut feel disconnected from their home, and the language barrier makesit even harder to adapt to the American culture. Moreover, languagebarrier presents problems at school and work for most immigrants.Immigrants feel as though they do not belong making it hard to fit inwith other students, which negatively affects the academicperformance of some immigrants (Zelick, 2007). However, some peopleblame these challenges on discrimination from other students,teachers, and colleagues as immigrants are viewed as easy victims forexploitation and discrimination. For example, students struggle tokeep up with schoolwork even as they report discrimination andbullying due to the language barrier and cultural differences(Zelick, 2007).
Onthe other hand, the education system in the United States isdifferent from the system the immigrants were used to, whichsignificantly affects the academic performance. For example, back inmy home country, I studied the Indian history, revolution, andheroes. However, moving to American meant that I would have to changeand learn the new things. Now, am expected to know about the Americanpatriots, Revolution, Constitution, the Civil War among other topicsbased on the country’s historical milestones and progress. Suchmajor changes in the education system introduce significantchallenges for the immigrants. As a result, some immigrants indicatethat after arriving in the country, they are often placed indifferent grades depending on their age rather than grading thembased on their ability (Zelick, 2007).
Inconclusion, everyone is always looking for a chance to improve theirlives, and for some people, it means leaving their homes and movingto another country. Hence, many immigrants move into the UnitedStates with hopes of achieving the American dream. However, the newcountry does not always match up to the expectations of theimmigrants. Instead, they face numerous problems due to the languagebarrier, the cultural differences, and work opportunities. Theimmigrants find it hard to assimilate into the new cultureconsidering that they become exposed to new lifestyles, which aredifferent from what they were used to in their home countries.Besides, the language barriers such as unfamiliar accents make itdifficult to assimilate to the new culture. On the other hand, theexperiences of most immigrants have proved that no one is immune tocultural shock thus, its impact should not be underestimated.Therefore, acknowledging that one might encounter culture shock isuseful in coping with it. However, culture shock is not entirely anegative phase since the immigrant has a unique opportunity to learna new culture. For that reason, no matter the issues that areassociated with immigration, it is impossible to ignore how it hasbenefited the society as it introduces racial and ethnic diversity inthe country. Then again, regardless of these challenges, mostimmigrants are grateful for the opportunity to be in the UnitedStates. Hence, it is important to acknowledge that integrating intothe American culture is a shared goal, which means that theimmigrants need special assistance to adjust to a new culture.
Cox,V. (1995). Thechallenge of immigration.Springfield, N.J: Enslow Publishers.
Garret,K. E. (2006). LivingIn America: Challenges Facing New Immigrants and Refugees.New Jersey: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Publishers.
Huntington,S. P. (2004) Whoare we? The challenges to America’s national identity.New York: Simon and Schuster.
Maestro,B., & Ryan, S. (1996). Comingto America: The story of immigration.New York: Scholastic Inc.
Zavodny,M. & Orrenius, P. M. (2009). Do immigrants work in riskier jobs?Demography46(3): 535-551.
Zelick,P. R. (2007). Issuesin the psychology of motivation.New York: Nova Science Publishers.