Australian culture and culture shock

IELTS Academic Reading Passage

Sometimes work, study or an sense of adventure take us out of our familiar surroundings to go and live in a different culture. The experience can be difficult, even shocking.

Almost everyone who studies, lives or works abroad has problems adjusting to a new culture. This response is commonly referred to as ‘culture shock’. Culture shock can be defined as ‘the physical and emotional discomfort a person experiences when entering a culture different from their own’ (Weaver, 1993).

 

For people moving to Australia, Price (2001) has identified certain values which may give rise to culture shock. Firstly, he argues that Australians place a high value on independence and personal choice. This means that a teacher or course tutor will not tell students what to do, but will give them a number of options and suggest they work out which one is the best in their circumstances. It also means that they are expected to take action if something goes wrong and seek out resources and support for themselves.

Australians are also prepared to accept a range of opinions rather than believing there is one truth. This means that in an educational setting, students will be expected to form their own opinions and defend the reasons for that point of view and the evidence for it.

 

Price also comments that Australians are uncomfortable with differences in status and hence idealise the idea of treating everyone equally. An illustration of this is that most adult Australians call each other by their first names. This concern with equality means that Australians are uncomfortable taking anything too seriously and are even ready to joke about themselves.

Australians believe that life should have a balance between work and leisure time. As a consequence, some students may be critical of others who they perceive as doing nothing but study.

Australian notions of privacy mean that areas such as financial matters, appearance and relationships are only discussed with close friends. While people may volunteer such information, they may resent someone actually asking them unless the friendship is firmly established. Even then, it is considered very impolite to ask someone what they earn. With older people, it is also rude to ask how old they are, why they are not married or why they do not have children. It is also impolite to ask people how much they have paid for something, unless there is a very good reason for asking.

Kohls (1996) describes culture shock as a process of change marked by four basic stages. During the first stage, the new arrival is excited to be in a new place, so this is often referred to as the “honeymoon” stage. Like a tourist, they are intrigued by all the new sights and sounds, new smells and tastes of their surroundings. They may have some problems, but usually they accept them as just part of the novelty. At this point, it is the similarities that stand out, and it seems to the newcomer that people everywhere and their way of life are very much alike. This period of euphoria may last from a couple of weeks to a month, but the letdown is inevitable.

During the second stage, known as the ‘rejection’ stage, the newcomer starts to experience difficulties due to the differences between the new culture and the way they were accustomed to living. The initial enthusiasm turns into irritation, frustration, anger and depression, and these feelings may have the effect of people rejecting the new culture so that they notice only the things that cause them trouble, which they then complain about. In addition, they may feel homesick, bored, withdrawn and irritable during this period as well.

Fortunately, most people gradually learn to adapt to the new culture and move on to the third stage, known as ‘adjustment and reorientation’. During this stage a transition occurs to a new optimistic attitude. As the newcomer begins to understand more of the new culture, they are able to interpret some of the subtle cultural clues which passed by unnoticed earlier. Now things make more sense and the culture seems more familiar. As a result, they begin to develop problem-solving skills, and feelings of disorientation and anxiety no longer affect them.

In Kohls’s model, in the fourth stage, newcomers undergo a process of adaptation. They have settled into the new culture, and this results in a feeling of direction and self- confidence. They have accepted the new food, drinks, habits and customs and may even find themselves enjoying some of the very customs that bothered them so much previously. In addition, they realise that the new culture has good and bad things to offer and that no way is really better than another, just different.

Questions 1-6

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage?

Write

TRUE           if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE         if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN      if there is no information on this

   1.  Australian teachers will suggest alternatives to students rather than offer one solution.

   2.  In Australia, teachers will show interest in students’ personal circumstances.

   3.  Australians use people’s first names so that everyone feels their status is similar.

   4.   Students who study all the time may receive positive comments from their colleagues.

   5.  It is acceptable to discuss financial issues with people you do not know well.

   6.  Younger Australians tend to be friendlier than older Australians.

 

Questions 7-13

Complete the table below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

THE STAGES OF CULTURE SHOCK

 

 

Name

 

Newcomers’ reaction to problems

 

Stage 1

 

 

7…………………

They notice the

8……………….. between different

nationalities and cultures.

They may experience this stage for up to 9…………………

Stage 2

 

Rejection

They reject the new culture and lose

the 10……………….. they had at the

beginning.

Stage 3

Adjustment and reorientation

They can understand

some 11………………. which they

had not reviously observed.

They learn 12…………………

for dealing with difficulties.

Stage

4

13…………………

They enjoy some of the customs that annoyed them before.

 

Check Your Answers After Doing Test
Questions Set 1 Answers

Solution:

   Answer Table

1. TRUE 8. similarities
2. NOT GIVEN 9. one month
3. TRUE 10. enthusiasm
4. FALSE 11. clues
5. FALSE 12. skills
6. NOT GIVEN 13. adaptation
7. Honeymoon

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