The concept of acculturation is a major field of research in cultural and ethnic studies. Tan and Liu (2014) explore the ethnic visibility and preferred acculturation orientations of international students in Australia. The researchers analyzed the existing relation between the concept of ethnic visibility and acculturation orientations. Tan and Liu also investigated how discrimination impacts the process of acculturation among international students studying in Australia. They conducted a single study involving 221 participants to examine the relationship between acculturation orientations and ethnic visibility. During the study researchers Tan and Liu surveyed the participants who were international students in divergent universities in Australia. The study highlighted the existing relationship between ethnic visibility and acculturation orientations among international students who study in Australia (Tan & Liu 2014). In the study, ethnically visible students scored lower on host culture orientation and higher on heritage culture orientation compared to ethically non-visible students (Tan & Liu 2014). Tan and Liu concluded that unlike cultural distance, discrimination shapes and informs acculturation orientations. The findings show the relationship between acculturation and ethnicity, as well as how discrimination impacts acculturation orientations in Australia.
Dandy and Pe-Pua (2015) investigate the concept of acculturation in Australia and how it impacts indigenous, majority, and minority perspectives in the country. Dandy and Pe-Pua (2015) conducted in-depth interviews with people from the majority, immigrant, refugee, and Aboriginal backgrounds. The researchers found that different cultural groups in Australia held different acculturation expectations and orientations (Dandy & Pe-Pua, 2015). According to Dandy and Pe-Pua (2015), the differences in responses highlight the need to consider both the social and historical context of intergroup relations and the special position of indigenous groups when considering mutual acculturation in multi-ethnic nations such as Australia. The research highlights the fact that intergroup relations are crucial in shaping acculturation orientations. Khawaja, Yang, and Cockshaw (2016) conducted a study investigating the acculturation and wellbeing of Taiwanese migrants in Australia. They engaged 271 Taiwanese migrants who had settled in Australia in completing a questionnaire available in both Mandarin and English. The questionnaire investigated the factors associated with the participants’ acculturation and psychological wellbeing. The results of the study indicated that various personal factors, such as duration of stay in Australia and age, were linked with the acculturation and psychological wellbeing of the participants (Khawaja et al., 2016). The findings also indicate that acculturation is not associated with wellbeing while social support is associated with the psychological wellbeing of migrants (Khawaja et al., 2016). The researchers expand on the concept of acculturation and its practical implementation.
Cultural shock remains the subject of numerous research and analysis in the field of cultural and ethnic studies. Purnell and Hoban (2014) conducted research on the lived experiences of third culture kids who transition into university life in Australia. Third culture kids are individuals aged between 18 and 27 years who have lived in Africa, Europe, and Asia for more than 18 years before relocating to Australia for various reasons such as studying (Purnell & Hoban, 2014). Purnell and Hoban (2014) conducted in-depth interviews with 12 participants, third culture kids, who were undertaking Australia university studies. The data collected from the study was thematically analyzed and classified into four separate themes. The first theme covered participants who were prepared psychologically before they transitioned to Australia; the second theme covered participants who were not psychologically prepared before the transition; the third theme covered how the participants adjusted during the transition; while the fourth theme covered the stabilization of the participants to live in Australia (Purnell & Hoban, 2014). The findings of the study show that individuals who had been prepared psychologically before their relocation in Australia and experienced improved emotional health and easy transition (Purnell & Hoban, 2014). Individuals who had not been psychologically prepared before their relocation to Australia and lacked practical support during their transition experienced poor emotional health and transitional hardships (Purnell & Hoban, 2014). Purnell and Hoban (2014) hold that culture shock is a huge problem among international students studying in Australian universities. The study highlights the fact that though pervasive among international students, cultural shock can be alleviated by societal and psychological support.
In other studies, researchers have examined the subtle effects of culture shock and how it affects the social relations of international students and their adaptation in foreign nations. Presbitero (2016) investigates the concept of culture shock and reverse culture shock, as well as its impact on international students in Australia and the world over. Presbitero (2016) also delves into the effect of cultural intelligence in reducing culture shock and reverse culture shock. The researcher utilized two studies to test the assertion that cultural intelligence lessens the negative effect of both concepts. In the first study, the researcher conducted an online survey that involved 189 newly-arrived international students in Australia. The second study conducted by Presbitero was based on an online survey of 123 international students who had freshly returned to their nations after completing their studies in Australia. The results of the study confirmed the researcher’s hypothesis that psychological and sociocultural adaptation reduces the negative effects of culture shock (Presbitero, 2016). Presbitero (2016) also holds that cultural intelligence is essential in limiting the effect of culture shock among international students.
Belford (2017) investigated the effect of culture shock among international students from Melbourne, Australia. The researcher administered questionnaires and interviews with various international students who were living and studying in Melbourne. Belford (2017) analyzes the personal stories of the students and their perspectives on social engagement with regard to their cross-cultural transitions. The findings of the study hold that culture shock is a major problem among the international students’ population in Melbourne (Belford, 2017). The study also points out that a proper understanding of the support needs of international students is required to help limit the negative effects of culture shock (Belford, 2017). The studies by Belford (2017) and Presbitero (2016) reiterate the research by Purnell and Hoban (2014) on the concept of culture shock among international students.
Acculturation is a product of multi-ethnic communities that are composed of people hailing from various ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds. Acculturation is a sociological, psychological, and cultural process that involves an individual adopting, acquiring, and adjusting to a new cultural environment (Tan & Liu, 2014). Acculturation is a major challenge among international students who visit foreign nations for studies and have to adopt the dominant culture in those nations. Tan and Liu (2014) interrogate the relation that exists between ethnic visibility and acculturation orientations. The visibility of an ethnic group is determined by the relative size of the group, which is determined by the linguistic, racial, cultural, or religious dominance of the group (Dennissen, Benschop, & van den Brink, 2019). Tan and Liu (2014) contend that international students who are ethnically visible easily transition, settle, and adapt to the cultural demands of the foreign nations they visit for studies. For example, Caucasian international students in Australia find it easier to adapt to the dominant culture of the nation compared to students from Africa or Asia due to the fact that they are more ethnically visible. Notably, Caucasians are in the same racial classification with the dominant ethnic group in Australia thus they are more ethnically visible than African and Asian students in the country (Tan & Liu, 2014). Moreover, discrimination of the non-visible students by the dominant culture in society is what informs acculturation orientation among international students (Tan & Liu, 2014). Due to the discrimination, the acculturation of most international students is not mutual. Instead, it is coerced through discrimination.
Mutual acculturation can only be achieved when all the divergent groups in society are acknowledged and involved in the acculturation process. Each ethnic group in a multi-ethnic society has its unique notions concerning acculturation expectations and orientations (Dandy & Pe-Pua, 2015). The majority, minority, refugees, as well as international students have different acculturation expectations since they hail from divergent cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Thus, to achieve mutual accreditation based on harmonious orientations, both the social and historical context of the intergroup relations of all groups in society have to be considered. For example, in multi-ethnic societies such as that of Canada and Australia, aboriginal cultures must be incorporated in the acculturation process. They must also be treated equally without prejudice by the major ethnic groups in the two countries.
In matters acculturation, migrants’ cultural interests and rights are often degraded and dismissed resulting in widespread discrimination and exclusion. The exclusion of migrants’ cultural interests defeats the process of mutual acculturation and results in the formation of intricate and diametrical orientations within a multi-ethnic society (Tan & Liu, 2014). To foster the quick and mutual acculturation of international students, it is essential to provide them with social support. Cultural transition is psychologically draining, and therefore, international students need societal support for their mutual acculturation into the respective cultures of the nations they study in (Tan & Liu, 2014). Discrimination is a major challenge of mutual acculturation that can only be solved by the harmonious orientation of divergent social and ethnic groups in society.
The concept of acculturation is clearly presented in the 1992 American drama film “A Stranger among Us.” The main character in the movie, Emily Eden, goes undercover in a Hasidic community to unravel the murder of a Hasidic diamond-cutter, Yaakov Klausman (Lumet & Golin, 1992). In the Hasidic community, which comprises of religious Jews, Emily Eden feels out of place and is easily identified as a foreigner. Emily Eden tries to adapt the way of life of the Hasidic community; she moves in with a Jewish family, the Rebbes. In the movie, Emily is forced to change her appearance in order to develop and maintain a relationship with Ariel Rebbe, a teacher of the yeshiva and a strict Jew (Lumet & Golin, 1992). The concept of acculturation is depicted in the movie by the gradual adoption of the Jewish culture by Emily Eden while living in the Hasidic community. That Emily Eden is covertly discriminated against upon her arrival in the Hasidic community indicates the role played by discrimination in coercing acculturations in multi-ethnic societies.
As an international student studying in Australia, I have gone through the process of acculturation. I am a native of Taiwan, which is located in Mainland Asia. I first visited Australia for my university studies. The number of Taiwanese individuals living in Australia is dismal, which makes us ethnically non-visible in the country. In my first week in Australia, I felt subtle forms of discrimination directed towards me. I attribute this to my poor mastery of English back then. Though the process of my acculturation into mainstream Australian was difficult and challenging, largely because I was an ethnically non-visible student, my fear of discrimination quickened my integration into the dominant Australian culture
Culture shock is a major problem that affects individuals who relocate from their native countries into foreign nations. Purnell and Hoban (2014) define culture shock as the personal disorientation individuals feel when faced by unfamiliar cultures in foreign nations. International students who have settled in foreign nations for their studies are largely affected by the problem of culture shock. Notably, more than 78 percent of international students in Australian universities suffer from some kind of culture shock upon their immigration into the country (Yu & Wright, 2016). Individuals who relocate for further studies in Australia without prior psychological preparation are the worst hit by culture shock (Purnell & Hoban, 2014). People who are prepared psychologically and are socially supported by their educational institutions rarely feel the effect of culture shock and easily transition to life in Australia.
The severity of culture shock can be alleviated by both personal and institutional support. Cultural intelligence, particularly in a multi-cultural society, is essential in mitigating the effects of culture shock (Belford, 2017). Cultural intelligence enables individuals to quickly identify the dominant ethnic and cultural groups in foreign societies and strategies of adapting to them (Presbitero, 2016). This eases the transition process and enables foreigners to settle quickly into foreign cultures. The effects of cross-cultural transition such as culture shock are also hastened through institutional support. According to Roberts, Boldy, and Dunworth (2015), strong institutional social and economic support of foreigners is essential in facilitating transition and reducing culture shock. Social institutional support shields foreigners from discrimination which smoothens their acculturation into the dominant culture (Roberts et al., 2015). Economic support enables foreigners to settle quickly into a new culture without suffering any economic challenges that may worsen their culture shock. Educational institutions should provide both economic and social support to ensure that their international students do not suffer from heightened culture shock during their transition periods.
In the movie “A Stranger Among Us,” Emily Eden suffers from culture shock as she tries to fit into the Hasidic community. Coming from a highly liberal town where women are independent-minded and assertive, Emily Eden undergoes a huge culture shock as she tries to settle down among the fundamentalist Jews in the Hasidic community. The Hasidic community is characterized by rigid interpretation and implementation of the teachings of the Torah. In the Hasidic culture, women are subservient to their male partners, which troubles Emily Eden. This is evident when Emily Eden tells Hasidic Rebbe, an elderly male in the Rebbe household, that she will fit into the community with ease as she is human (Lumet & Golin, 1992). Hasidic Rebbe succinctly informs her that it is not about humanity but knowing the cultural practices of the Hasidic community (Lumet & Golin, 1992). In another scene, the Rebbe family is about to have dinner when Emily joins them. An elderly woman takes a shawl and covers the exposed legs of Emily since she is wearing a short dress. In the community, women are required to dress in a prescribed fashion which is not obvious to Emily.
I encountered several instances of culture shock when I first came to Australia for my studies. That I had a poor mastery of the English language only worsened my situation. I recall that upon my arrival in Australia, I used to wear my native Chinese silk robes, and this made me look odd and out of place among my colleagues. I even attended classes with my flowing silk robes only to be informed that they were not deemed official clothing in Australia. I quickly recovered from my culture shock and made arrangements on how to purchase some decent western clothes. Coming from Taiwan, where activities are done at relatively a slow pace, I was shocked by the constant hurry that people seemed to engage in activities in Australia. However, I have since adapted and largely in sync with the pace of life in Australia.
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