Cross-cultural Adaptation

Living in Japan, away from the environment that you are most familiar with, is often more challenging and stressful than expected. Sometimes this stress may lessen naturally over time, while at other times it may feel like a massive problem that is difficult for you to resolve on your own. At the Global Engagement Center Support Team, counselors and a medical doctor can offer consultations about cultural adjustment. Please contact the GEC office for any concerns and questions. Here are some tips about cultural adaptation that may help you to cope with the stress due to cultural differences, and make the most of your life and study in Japan.


1. Culture shock

Although "culture shock" is generally understood as a temporary shock felt when confronted by different cultural customs, ways of thinking and behavior patterns, it actually refers to a depressive state caused by a succession of failure experiences in unfamiliar social situations. Culture shock is temporary and everybody goes through it to some extent during the process of cultural adaptation. General symptoms of culture shock include negative feelings, such as losing self confidence, feeling depressed, attributing all failure to yourself, feeling that nobody understands you, feeling inadequate, etc. Accordingly, you may lose motivation to talk with people or to attend classes. Some may experience physical symptoms, such as a change in appetite or insomnia. Most of these psychological reactions are, again, very natural in the process of cultural adaptation. Please take time to cope with each single event in your life, and you will be able to overcome these emotions sooner or later.

2. Differences in "academic culture"

It is widely accepted that different values, behavioral and communication patterns exist from culture to culture. However, we often fail to realize that there are also differences in "academic culture", such as the expected roles of academic advisers and students, classroom communication, evaluation criteria, etc. Such differences can also become a major cause of stress. For example, the relationship between academic adviser and advisee is considered quite unique at graduate level education in Japan. Some knowledge of the Japanese academic culture will help you achieve your goal more smoothly. For concerns and questions, feel free to talk with advisors to make a better research environment.

3. Coping with Stress

If you feel pressured by stress or lose confidence in your ability to study, you should think about releasing yourself from these negative emotions. Achieving good results in your studies may take a certain amount of time, and ought to be viewed as an accumulative process. Sometimes, you will need to take a break. If you feel tired, do not push yourself too hard and try to enjoy some of your favorite foods, recreation, and physical exercise. It is also recommended that you talk with your friends, academic advisor, or international student advisors/counselors. Moreover, please do not consider the process of cultural adaptation solely as a cause of stress; you can learn tremendously about various cultures, including your own, through this process.

4. Dating

The custom and interpretation of dating vary largely depending on the person and on the culture. The same behavior may be interpreted very differently among cultures, which can cause unnecessary troubles or serious damages on person’s mental/physical conditions. It is important to respect each one’s personality and culture, and not take any behaviors which the other person do not want.