[Parts of the following adapted from World Relief Minnesota]
- One’s worldview defines what is “right” or appropriate in all areas of life. It defines our big issues like overall values and societal systems, but also smaller issues like foods to eat and how to eat them.
- Many of the refugees resettled in the US come from cultures where the following subjects are viewed differently: the value of time, individual vs. community, a person’s identity, a person’s value, and youth vs. age.
- While these are only a few examples, it is important to understand that cultural values are extremely different. For example, a refugee may not realize that being late is considered rude, as many other cultures do not put the same value on time that Americans do.
- Volunteers should be understanding and patient if there are any instances where a refugee seems difficult or rude. It could just be a case of cultural differences.
Culture shock is the name given to many uncomfortable emotions and reactions that people experience when they move into a new culture that is very different from their own. Please be mindful and considerate of any discomfort from partners as they may be experiencing culture shock.
There are five main stages of culture shock:
- Honeymoon Phase: The culture is new and exciting; their dreams and expectations about the future seem to be coming true.
- Rejection Phase: The realties of life (housing, employment, and family) can become overwhelming. Many things do not go according to plan, and newcomers may feel misunderstood by those around them.
- Regression Phase: In order to deal with the stressful changes, a newcomer may only try to surround himself with people of their own culture.
- Recovery Phase: If a person can work through the regression phase, they may be able to accept and feel accepted by American culture.
- Reverse Culture Shock: A person may become so accustomed to their new culture that they would exhibit culture shock if they returned to the home country.
Persons in the rejection and regression phases may exhibit moodiness, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, or depression. Refugees may have also experienced severe trauma and persecution in their home country and may struggle with these symptoms as well.