If you’re moving to Vancouver from a different country, or even a different area of Canada, you may experience a sense of displacement.
Culture shock in Vancouver is not unusual with the open immigration policy and the many internationals that come here to work or study.
While Vancouver is a fairly cosmopolitan area with lots of outlets for experiencing culture from other countries, it will likely not be enough to curb a person’s feeling of displacement.
What is Culture Shock?
Culture shock is a condition of disorientation affecting someone who is suddenly exposed to an unfamiliar culture or way of life or set of attitudes. It manifests as feelings of stress, anxiety, surprise, uncertainty, and confusion. Undoubtedly, you’ll probably dislike some aspects of Vancouver’s culture
. This is completely normal. Nearly everyone new to the area experiences culture shock in Vancouver in some way.
Symptoms of Culture Shock
The symptoms of cultural shock can appear at different times. Some people are affected by it more seriously and experience different symptoms than others. Younger people tend to deal with culture shock better than adults. Here are some common symptoms of culture shock:
Feeling vulnerable or powerless
Lack of confidence
Identifying with or idealizing your old country
Trying too hard to absorb everything about Vancouver and its culture
Stages of Culture Shock
Knowing the stages of culture shock though can help you understand what you’re going through and help you normalize. Typical culture shock has 4 phases. It is different for everyone, however. You, personally, may not experience all phases, maybe only some of them.
The phases are as follows:
1. Honeymoon Phase
- Everything about Vancouver and your experience there seems new and exciting. You may love the food
, Vancouver mannerisms and so on. This phase is associated with a sense of euphoria.
2. Negotiation Phase
- Usually, after a few weeks, the 2nd stage sets in. The differences between your home area and Vancouver become very apparent, and you may want to go back to the way it was at home. You may experience mood swings, feelings of anger, impatience. You’re trying to adapt to the new culture. This can be a difficult process and it takes time.
3. Adjustment Phase
- Usually, after 6-12 months, the 3rd phase occurs. You become accustomed to the Vancouver culture. You have a sense of direction. Things don’t feel new anymore. You become used to the Vancouverite habits and oddities. Things normalize.
4. Mastery Phase
- In this stage, you're able to participate fully and comfortably in Vancouver. Mastery doesn't mean total conversion, and there may be some aspects Vancouver that you never fully adopt. It is also referred to as the biculturalism stage. This can take years, even a lifetime, to achieve. And some people never achieve this stage.
5. Re-entry Shock
- If you decide to return to your country or area of origin, you may experience some of the previous phases again. For example, things are different in your old country/ area than when you left. You may find that you’ve changed a bit, too. You may have gotten used to the laid back pace of life here in Vancouver and find that you find the pace of life in your old country/ area harder to handle when you get back. You may then go through the previous stages again. This is also known as 'reverse culture shock.'
Outcomes of Culture Shock
There are typically 3 different outcomes from culture shock. They are as follows:
- Some people find it impossible to accept and integrate into Vancouver culture. They isolate themselves from the local environment, which they find hostile. Usually, they stay in groups with people of their own nationality or from their area of origin and see return to their own culture as the only way out. This group usually has the greatest problems re-integrating back home after their return.
– People in this group integrate fully and adopt everything from Vancouver culture, while losing their own culture. This group usually remains (or tries to) in Vancouver forever.
- Some people manage to adapt the aspects of Vancouver culture they see as positive, while keeping some of their own and creating their unique blend. They have no major problems returning home or relocating elsewhere.
Coping with Culture Shock
If you find yourself experiencing culture shock in Vancouver, here are some tips that can help you deal with it.
Don't forget that if things get overwhelming, physically or mentally, you may want to consult a doctor or mental health professional.
› Learn about Canada and Vancouver
, its history
and its culture. That way, you might understand why Vancouverites behave the way they do.
› Don't let yourself get offended too easily
. Sometimes you may think that Vancouverites people act in a way that offends or irritates you. For example, you may not be used to Canadian directness in conversation, which may come across as blunt in many cultures. If you let yourself get offended, it will make the transition harder on yourself.
› Be aware of the fact that you're experiencing culture shock
. This helps you to cope with it better. UBC
has classes on the topic, or might be able to find classes at your ESL school or college
› Make friends in Vancouver
so you’ll have people to enjoy the area with and to talk to when things are tough. Try to have a wide variety of friends, local friends
from Canada, international friends, as well as friends from your home country if possible. The most common mistake newcomers make is that they don't make local friends who are Canadians, seeing it as too hard. They can play a major role in getting acclimatized to the area.
› Take a time-out from cultural exchange in order to reduce the shock
of adjustment. Occasionally do something that reminds you of home. Eat a comfort food from home. Play some familiar music from your home. Whatever gives you the connection you need.
› Be patient
. Moving to a new area is a process of adaptation to new situations. It takes time. Don't try too hard.
› Study English
! Being able to communicate more easily helps ease culture shock.