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Culture Shock

26 January, 2009

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Voice 1

Hello, I’m Rachel Hobson.

Voice 2

And I’m Ruby Jones. Welcome to Spotlight. This programme uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

A young man steps out of a large, grey building. The weather is very bad - windy, cold and wet. But the young man does not have a raincoat to wear. And he has never felt so cold in his life. He is afraid that he will be late for class. He looks around for some directions. But all the buildings look the same. Finally, he sees some people coming towards him. He knows that he should ask them for help. But his courage disappears. The students run past him, laughing - they do not notice how sad the young man looks. Everyone seems to know where to go and what to do - except for him. He feels lonely and worried. He thinks about his family and how far he is from home. And he remembers his father’s words to him before he left - about how lucky he is to have a chance to study in the United Kingdom! But the young man does not feel very lucky. All he wants is to go home.

Voice 2

Every year, thousands of foreign students go to study in the United Kingdom. And the majority of them experience the same kind of feelings as the young man in the story. Also, the same feelings would affect a UK person going to live and work in India. These students have all come from their own culture - where they know the traditions and the way of behaving correctly. Then, they find themselves having to survive in another culture - a different world where they do not yet know all the rules! Social scientists call these feelings of loneliness and worry, “culture shock”.

Voice 1

Kalervo Oberg was the person who first used the phrase, “culture shock”. He was a Canadian social scientist. He studied human behaviour in different situations. Oberg spent time observing foreigners coming to a new country. He described culture shock:

Voice 3

“Culture shock happens when people lose the signs of social behaviour that they know... These signs are the thousand and one [1,001] ways we learn how to act in every day life. It is knowing when to shake hands, for example. Or, knowing what to say when we meet people. Knowing when to accept or refuse if someone invites you to do something. Knowing when people are joking or when they are serious.”

Voice 1

Oberg noticed that there seemed to be a number of steps in the process of culture shock. First, there is the honeymoon period - this is when everything in a new situation is fresh and exciting. Everyone seems friendly and welcoming.

Voice 2

The second step is crisis or rejection. Things are no longer so exciting. People notice more the differences between their own culture and the new one. And these differences become difficult to deal with. People can react in two ways to this step - try to change their way of doing things or return home.

Voice 1

Oberg calls the third step regression. People only remember the good things about their home culture. They no longer try to learn the language or traditions of their new situation. They only mix with people from their country.

Voice 2

Adjustment is the fourth step. People finally begin to fit into the new culture. Differences no longer trouble them as much. And they feel more that they belong to their new situation.

Voice 1

Nipan Maniar is from India. In the year 2000, he went to the United Kingdom to study. He found his new life so strange that he cried. He said:

Voice 4

“I found some parts of British culture very different. When I first saw a man and woman kissing in public, for example, I was really shocked. Also, going out to drink socially with people. This was very different to my own culture in India. Alcohol is banned in Gujarat where I come from. So the drinking alcohol culture came as a shock to me.”

Voice 1

But Nipan did not lose courage. He decided to do something to help other students in his position. He had an idea about what he could do. And he talked about it to the international office at his university and the British Council. The result? The development of a mobile telephone game called, C-Shock. Nipan describes the game as a mobile-mother for new foreign students. He says,

Voice 4

“I thought it would be great to have a learning device to help people deal with culture shock. If you have not experienced such things before, it is hard to know how to react or behave in a correct way.”

Voice 2

But how does the game C-Shock work? Well, it begins with an imaginary situation from the student’s first day at university. The student sees a map showing all the university buildings. He or she then has to find the correct path to different places in the university. The student can also see images of situations that may cause culture shock - for example, a man and woman holding hands in public. The student then has to react to these images. The game rates the student’s reaction between the scores of 1 - very good - and 100 - very bad!. Students can play the game as many times as they like. The more they see the images, the less shocked they will be. The aim of C-shock is to reduce the student’s culture shock level to zero.

Voice 1

The C-Shock game also contains helpful information for new students - such as police and emergency telephone numbers. Nipan Maniar can see other future uses for the game too:

Voice 4

“Students could use C-Shock to teach them how to join the right university classes. It could help them with basic information like finding out where their nearest bank is. We could even develop the game to include a whole city guide. So, the new student has this learning tool to help him quickly settle into a new city.”

Voice 1

Nipan believes that a game like C-Shock is the way forward for foreign students. And he is looking for a business to invest money into the C-Shock project. He says,

Voice 4

“Using mobile phone games to communicate with people and educate in this way is a new idea. I expect many other universities will use this idea in the future.”

Voice 1

The writer and producer of this programme was Ruby Jones. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa. All quotations were adapted for this programme. You can hear programmes on our website at http://www.radio.English.net. This programme is called “Culture Shock”.

Voice 2

If you have comments or questions about our programmes, you can reach us by e-mail. Our address is radio@English.net. Thank you for joining us today. Until next time, goodbye.

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