Janette Patterson


Relationship Collaboration Therapy

About Cultural Disorientation

Human beings are social creatures. We orient ourselves to our companions, our social settings and our culture. We experience ourselves as members of groups: our family, our workplace, our neighborhoods and our country. What happens when we step out of one of these groups and join another? We get married and join another family; we start a new job and meet new colleagues; we join a club that offers activities we are interested in and have to learn its rules. We might relocate to a new place. It can be especially difficult when moving to another city, state, or even country.


The experience of a new country and its social norms will necessitate a process of cultural adaptation. For many individuals it can cause symptoms of culture shock, and feelings of being overwhelmed by their impressions and reactions.


Raised in Germany, I arrived in the United States as a twenty-one year-old student at the University of Georgia. After a couple of months, my initial enthusiasm and sense of adventure turned into feelings of despair and anxiety. I wrestled with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt, homesickness and regret. Though I spoke English, I could not seem to understand the social cues and nuances of conversations. A classmate might say, “Let’s have lunch some time,” and walk away, while I believed we were committing to a specific lunch date. These different social expectations left me confused and hurt.


For the past twenty-nine years I have lived in the US, during which time I married an American and raised three children bilingually. At each major life event - marriage, pregnancy, birth of a child, the beginning of school - I continued to be faced with the experience of comparing my culture of origin with my culture of choice. Over time I learned, through self-reflection and awareness, the differences American lifestyles and social skills held when compared to the German way of life.


Going far beyond language fluency, I have become a multi-cultural human being. I am sensitive to learning about a person’s or family’s cultural origins and base my involvement with them on the understanding that we can learn from each other’s lifestyles. ■


(Auf Deutsch)


Wie Sie auf meiner Webseite lesen koennen, bin ich ausgebildete Ehe- und Familienberaterin und arbeite schon seit ueber 25 Jahren als Psychotherapeutin in verschiedenen Kapazitaeten.


Ueber die Jahre habe ich viel Erfahrung gesammelt. Nicht nur in der Arbeit, sondern auch in meinem Privatleben, als Mutter, Ehefrau und Mitglied einer recht komplexen, trans-atlantischen Familie, habe ich gelitten, gelernt und Heilung gefunden und gegeben.


Aufgewachsen in Augsburg (ich versteh aber auch hochdeutsch), habe ich als 21-jaehrige Studentin ein Auslandsstudium an der University of Georgia angetreten. Meine anfaengliche Begeisterung und Abenteuerslust verwandelte sich in Verzweiflung und Angstgefuehle als ich nach ein paar Monaten von Kulturschock geplagt wurde.


About Cultural Disorientation
About Cultural Disorientation
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    DBT Skills

    Culture shock