Symptoms of Culture Shock


The symptoms of culture shock and the degrees of intensity vary, depending on the person and circumstance.  Though culture shock is a very normal experience, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Being aware of your mind and body during this time not only helps prevent things from building up to dangerous levels, but it can also lead to big jumps in personal growth.  And just like anything worth pursuing in life, it takes your active participation and daily monitoring for maintaining balance and control.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Constant, unidentifiable anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Apathy
  • Lack of control
  • Meaninglessness in activities
  • Isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Homesickness
  • Irritability
  • Self-doubt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Sadness
  • Helplessness
  • Boredom
  • Large mood swings
  • Fits of anger over small inconveniences

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Lack of creativity
  • Loss of concentration
  • Developing obsessions
  • Development of stereotypes of host culture

Physical Symptoms

  • Tightness in body
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Idealization of home country – Only positives are remembered
  • Social estrangement
  • Lack of spontaneity
  • Rejection of host culture
  • Rigidity
  • Trouble sleeping / Oversleeping
  • Absent-minded stare
  • Overdependence on other foreigners
  • Compulsive drinking
  • Compulsive eating
  • Drug use
  • Refusal to learn language
  • Family / Partner tensions
  • Preoccupation with health
  • Preoccupation with quality of food, water, housing


Kohls, L. R. (1996). Survival Kit for Overseas Living : For Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad. Yarmouth, Me: Intercultural Press.

Stewart, L. and Leggat, P. A. (1998), Culture Shock and Travelers. Journal of Travel Medicine, 5: 84–88. doi: 10.1111/j.1708-8305.1998.tb00469.x

Vingerhoets, A. M., Tilburg, M. v., & International College of Psychosomatic, M. (2005). Psychological Aspects of Geographical Moves : Homesickness and Acculturation Stress. [Amsterdam]: Amsterdam University Press.

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