Culture Shock in The American Expatriate Community

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Dealing with Culture Shock in American Expatriate Community

The American expatriate community is the population of all Americans that are temporarily or permanently living outside the borders of the United States. These overseas-Americans, numbering over 6.32 million strong (Association for American Residents Overseas), confront many issues when they leave their homeland and transition to a new life in a foreign country. These issues can include dealing with the local language or trying to unravel the esoteric tax laws overseas workers must follow.

One of the major issues that American expatriates (or “expats”) confront is the issue of culture shock (Top Eight). Culture shock, in general, is the stress a person may feel experiencing an unfamiliar way of life after immigration, visiting a new country, or a move between social environments (Macionis and Gerber 54). Culture shock results from differences in culture like language or values toward personal space or cleanliness. Cultural differences that cause culture shock have been classified by Annelies E. M. Van Vianen, Irene E. De Pater, Amy L. Kristof-Brown and Erin C. Johnson in their article “Fitting In: Surface- and Deep-Level Cultural Differences and Expatriates' Adjustment" as being either “surface-level” differences or “deep-level” differences (700). Surface-level differences are those differences that are readily apparent to new expats. These would be things like food, housing conditions, climate and other easily observable aspects that a tourist would notice on vacation. Other aspects of a culture, like beliefs and values (such as openness to change and attitudes toward self-advancement), are classified as deep-level differences. An expat will only recognize de...

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