How To Deal With Culture Shock When Moving Abroad

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Written by: Thùy Linh


When traveling, studying abroad, or moving to a foreign country, everyone will inevitably suffer from culture shock. However, not everyone knows how to deal with it. Culture is easy to overcome if you know how to identify and understand the stages.

This article includes:: 

  1. What is culture shock?
  2. How to deal with culture shock when moving abroad?
  3. How to deal with culture shock when returning back our hometown?

1. What Is Culture Shock?

According to Kalervo Oberg – an American anthropologist, culture shock is a psychological condition of feeling restless, anxious, confused, and overwhelmed when exposed to an environment, culture, or society different from daily life.

The causes of culture shock can be excessive information acquisition, cultural practices leading to overload, language barriers, technological distance, and getting lost in the city.

There are 4 main stages of culture shock :

Honeymoon Stage

When you go to a new place for the first time, you’ll get excited about the new, exciting, and wonderful things the environment offers such as new landscapes, new flavors, new architecture, new culture, new lifestyles, and new climate. you feel proud of yourself, of the change you’ve achieved. 

How To Deal With Culture Shock When Moving Abroad

Negotiation Stage

The excitement will subside over three months. Instead, you will feel anxiety, sadness, and crisis about everything. You recognize differences in cultural practices, intolerance, and language restrictions, and you miss your homeland. 

For some people, this period may come when they first arrive in the country where they are prepared to live.

How To Deal With Culture Shock When Moving Abroad

Adjustment Stage

No matter how upset you are, you realize you have to balance and adapt yourself.

The ideological struggle between retreating or overcoming obstacles to achieve balance slowly fades away. After feeling tired of the change in environment, you will feel more relaxed. In addition, you also begin to have a positive outlook, care about the country you live in, and make efforts to be more suitable.

How To Deal With Culture Shock When Moving Abroad

Adaptation Stage

Once you have created a habit of living, you will be much calmer and more confident. You feel more comfortable living in a new environment. This was also the last period of this culture shock. You can easily talk to strangers, the differences become more pleasant. 

How To Deal With Culture Shock When Moving Abroad

2. Chemyon In All Aspects Of Life

2.1. Korean Greeting Culture

2.2. Koreans Use Honorifics In Communication

Honorifics can be used to indicate how close you are to someone. Honorific terms in Korea are special titles, words, and verbs when talking to family members and older people they meet in everyday life. 

Using honorifics is the way of speaking Korean that communicates between speaker and listener. Koreans use honorifics to show respect through speech to someone older or higher than themselves in society hierarchy and preserve that person’s dignity. They will get respect and high appreciation from listeners. Using honorifics is a cultural element to show that you are civilized and polite. 

Koreans use honorifics all the time, everywhere. Using honorifics is a subtle habit that is passed down from generation to generation, showing Chemyon. That is because Korean languages and culture are hierarchical. Age and status are important in communication and everyday life in Korean society.

chemyon how koreans preserve dignity

2.3. Koreans Focus On Appearance

“The good-looking wins over half”. Koreans have heard that since they were little kids. In Korean society, attractiveness is considered a priority. Many Koreans believe that people who have an attractive look have more advantages in work and life. 

For example, Koreans think the prettier and more handsome their resume photo is, the more likely they’ll land the job.

In Korean high school, many students are interested in beauty and makeup, including plastic surgery, especially during the difficult economic situation to get higher opportunities to find a job.

It is not hard to find many beautiful girls and handsome boys wearing neatly and makeup in the subway or anywhere. Korean chemyon plays an important role in preserving a person’s dignity. That is because the way you dress, act and speak shows who you are and makes an impression of yourself on others around you.

Koreans do not want to reveal their flaws although they have a busy day. They still maintain a professional attitude while working. Koreans manage their staff’s style extremely strictly.

chemyon how koreans preserve dignity

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2.4. Koreans Value Wealth And Social Status

Chemyon is closely associated with wealth and social status. Koreans attach great importance to property, degrees, and positions.

The more assets, the higher the degree, the higher the social status. 

According to Dr. Hann, “for Koreans, high social status implies a high moral level.” Therefore, the previledged classes and the middle class have been tremendously influenced by Chemyon. A standard high social status family is not only an affluent family but also the member has to be a paragon of virtue. 

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2.5. Koreans Judge People By Living Standard

In Korea, there is a strong division between the rich, the middle class and the common class on the premise of quality of life.

For example, the Seocho area in Korea has very high-quality schools, so house prices have increased to about 1.33 billion won (about 1.3 million dollars). Gradually, it reflects their wealth and social status.

There are people who strive their whole life to buy an apartment in an area where rich people live. They do that to be recognized as having money, to be admired by friends and people around them. However, it was never easy to escape the poverty trap in Korea.

chemyon how koreans preserve dignity

2.6. Koreans Treasure Knowledge

In Korea, having a degree from Seoul National University is equivalent to owning a $3,000 handbag or a large Seocho apartment.

In addition, it reflects one’s intellectual capacity and academic achievement, and because of the legacy of Confucian exam culture, this is especially appreciated.

Having strong academic background is the primary means of social advancement for centuries. Academic success means entering a prestigious class.

Going to a prestigious university is as valuable for that reason as it is for potential monetization.

And so education plays an important role in the face of a family, not just an individual. A child who passes the exam to a prestigious school will bring a lot of influence to the family: praise from everyone, improved life from material to spiritual.


Chemyon is an interesting aspect of Korean culture. Similar to other East Asian cultures, it reflects Koreans’ core values: have respect for others and live together in harmony. Although to some this may sound limiting and suffocating, Chemyon is still a great way to encourage collectivism and teach people how to function in a community.

Feel free to share in the comment section your experience with Chemyon. All opinions and thoughts are welcome!

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