Each society has its own beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviours, and social habits. These give people a sense of who they are, how they should  behave, and what they should or should not do. These ‘rules’ reflect the ‘culture’ of a country. People become conscious of such rules when they meet people from different cultures.

For example, in some cultures, being on time can mean turning up several hours late for an appointment, even for a business meeting; in others, 3 p.m. means 3 p.m. Also, the rules about when to eat  vary from culture to culture. Many North Americans and Europeans have three mealtimes a day and organise their timetable around them.

In some countries, on the other hand, people often do not have strict rules like this people eat when they want to, and every family has its own timetable. When people visit or live in a country for the first time, they are often surprised at the differences that exist between their own culture and the culture in the other country.

The most common way of comparing two  cultures is in terms of their differences – not their similarities. For some people, travelling abroad is an exciting experience; for others though, cultural differences make them feel uncomfortable, frightened, or even insecure.

This is known as ‘culture shock.’

Here are several things to do in order to avoid culture shock: Avoid quick judgements; try to understand people in another culture by looking at  things from their own point of view. Try to become more aware of what is going on around you. Don’t think of your cultural habits as ‘right* and other people’s as ‘wrong.’ Be willing to try new things and to have new experiences.


A. Match the paragraphs with the headings below. Culture shock Culture How to avoid culture shock Cultural differences
B. 1. Write a sentence describing what you should not do when travelling to or living in another country for the first time.
2. Write a sentence describing what you should do when travelling or living in another country for the first time.
C. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F). 1. in some cultures, it is not unusual to be late for a business meeting. 2. North Americans do not have strict rules about mealtimes. 3. People usually compare the similarities between two cultures. 4. Cultural differences make everybody feel frightened.

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