Chinese studentsSo, are you on an US campus now? If you are a Chinese student, your culture shock is guaranteed. To understand others, you will need to master not only the English language, but also the art of crossing cultures.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish you to adapt to your new reality as soon as possible. That’s why I prepared the following orientation tips which are meant to help you.

Culture Shock – Welcome to the USA!

As soon as you make your first steps on campus, some things you see and hear can leave your mouth wide open. These are only a few elements of culture, which seem absolutely natural to Americans, but astonish Chinese students and other foreigners:

  1. Freedom and independence. Everyone in America is free to do whatever they want (unless it does harm to other people.) From their early childhood, American kids are free to choose their food and activities. However, responsibility goes hand in hand with freedom. Thus, high school graduates are called ‘young adults’ and can be asked to pay the rent or even move from their parents’ house and live on their own.
  2. Individuality. Americans are individualists, and they feel absolutely comfortable alone. You will see an American student alone on campus every now and then. By contrast, a Chinese student needs company and usually shows up with a group of Chinese friends.
  3. Privacy. Americans' homes are their castles of privacy. This is why it would be absolutely inappropriate to visit somebody without calling ahead and letting them know you come. Even if someone tells you “to feel like home”, you’d better be careful how you interpret this invitation. This principle, however, is not applicable to living in the dorm.
  4. First names. Chinese students can be surprised with the fact that everyone (even professors) may ask them to use their first names. Only imagine calling your 40-year-old professor “Jane”… However, you should not do so unless the professor asks you to do it.
  5. Politeness. Americans are rather straightforward and do not care too much about finding softer wording (unless it is a matter of politically correct terms, such as “visually impaired” for “blind” or “African-American” for “the black”.)
    When an American says “yes”, it usually means “yes”, and “no” usually means “no”. Yet, the English American language is full of polite words, such as “please”, “thank you”, “you are welcome” and others. Always say “thank you” even if the action is not optional. For example, when a McDonald’s cashier gives you your change, you should say “thank you.”

Go Outside Your Comfort Zone

Crossing cultures and making friends from another culture can be scary, but it is rewarding! All you need to do is:

  • to bear in mind the above-discussed differences,
  • to go outside your comfort zone (the familiar company of other Chinese students);
  • to find something in common with other students (sports, studies, or music);
  • and to kick up a conversation.

Even if your attempts fail once or twice, you should keep trying. If you feel that your accent is bad, you may use these accent reduction tips. Studying abroad is your chance to make friends with people from all over the world. Do not miss it!
Have you ever had a culture shock? If yes, what situation made your lower jaw drop in surprise? I am looking forward to reading your funny stories in the section below.

Comments (5)

  • Tim Bonner Posted:

    Hey Jack

    I’m not a Chinese student but your tips will certainly help anyone from a different culture fit in just a little bit more! Heck, I’m from the UK and I find the US a bit of a culture shock sometimes.

    My biggest culture shock was when I visited the Baltic States back in the early 1990s just after they became independent from Russia.

    Lots of things were different, in particular though the eagerness to bathe nude in the sea struck me as particularly different! Maybe it was just a particularly good day for it…

    • Jack Milgram Posted:

      Hi Tim,
      lol, I think it was only one of particularly good days. It’s interesting that we can be strongly impressed by common practices of other countries. Lucky we are to have opportunities for crossing cultures and broadening our views.
      It was my pleasure to see you at our blog. Thank you for taking your time and leaving your comment

  • Maureen Posted:

    I’m in Australia and we have heaps of Chinese students as well as Indian and I’m sure there’s a huge amount of culture shock. Because of our location and educational standards, we do get a lot of foreign students. Helpful post.

    My biggest culture shock was Bulgaria years ago. It was after the Soviet era but before they joined the EU. I’d never seen people who looked just like me who were living in such poverty. It was also the first time I’d ever seen a real shepherd (with a crooked pole) guiding his sheep down a road.

    • Jack Milgram Posted:

      Hi Maureen,
      lol that’s a perfect example of culture shock. I thought that real shepherds are left in the past and folklore. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. It’s my pleasure to see you at our blog. Have a nice week!

  • Janessa Posted:

    Smakc-dab what I was looking for-ty!