This is a new post in response to your questions on “Have a culture shock question?” You asked: who benefits from culture shock?
The short answer: there is potential for everyone to benefit from culture shock – travelers, expats, international students and anyone spending time outside their own country, and people living in the host country or the country being visited. If both, guest and host, choose to share their experiences and what they learned from them – then many other people can benefit from their experiences as well.
A few things to consider:
1. the shock we receive
2. and the shock we impart
Both presuppose an interaction and interactions have consequences. I would say that, generally speaking, we want interactions to be constructive and the consequences to be positive. It’s up to us to make that happen to ensure a mutually satisfying exchange.
I think being heard and acknowledged is something we all seek when interacting with other people. Culture shock (for both guest and host) can be perceived as a threat to our identity. There are fewer cultural mirrors that reaffirm our own values and customs. By going through culture shock, we figure out which parts of ourselves we do see reflected around us, the parts we share regardless of culture or country.
If we remember that when we communicate with other people, any interaction has the potential to be beneficial. What it comes down to is respect for someone else’s life and dignity, and by extension their cultural voice. I can’t tell you how many people I met who said they felt bulldozed by travelers’ inconsiderate behavior.
This is also why I think it’s so important to understand how to communicate respect – because it varies from country to country. It’s the responsibility of the visitor to be willing to learn: how to show respect, convey appreciation, ask questions, express interest.
It’s also important to be open-minded and genuinely interested in another culture. If you just want to impose your own ideas or get drunk 10’000 miles from home, there’s little chance you’ll be receptive (or interested) enough to benefit from culture shock and people will feel trampled on.
If everyone takes responsibility for their part in creating an experience, everyone can benefit from culture shock.