Category Archives: Culture Shock


Culture shock is defined as the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes (, 2013).  It is what happens when one encounters people, or groups, that have a different set of values, norms, and even laws.  Culture shock can even happen within a certain country, if that country is diverse enough. For example, one might experience culture shock when going from northern Michigan to Texas. There are things such as the weather, food, and dialect that are different from what one considers normal if from northern Michigan. To better understand what culture shock is, one must better understand what a culture is.  Wherever one lives in the world, culture is comprised of norms, folkways, mores, laws, and even includes languages to name a few.

Have you sat in a movie theater and watched as everyone got quiet once the movie started?  Or how you just know how to act while you’re attending church?  What about how we raise our hands to ask a question in class?  These are norms of our society, or in other words, what people have decided is acceptable.  There are different types of norms for different societies.  For example,  folkways deal with norms within a particular society.  A folkway is a norm that when broken, it is not that big of a deal even if a norm is broken. You will still be made aware that what you did was wrong, but you will live to see another day.  A good example that comes to mind is for men in particular. When using the urinal, you are supposed to stand at least two urinals away from the next person. Where is this rule written?  It is not written, but if you were to go stand right next to another man at a urinal when there are other spaces available, you would be sanctioned.  For example, the man you stood next to might leave in a hurry, or give you a dirty look, because what you did is considered wrong.  Mores are norms that are taken more seriously and obedience to must be necessary for society.  Mores are usually made into laws. These laws are enforced with more serious sanctions, such as prison, to make sure our obedience is mandatory.

These patterns of society help create our culture. Society needs these patterns of behavior to survive.  Without these, we would easily fall into chaos caused by the lack of rules.  Think of a school room full of students without the teacher.  The children will go wild, pulling hair and running around, with no one to object. In doing so, they break the norms of the class room. Nothing would be able to be accomplished until the teacher returns to establish the norms.  Without those norms in place, the children were not able to learn and advance; staying in the same state until the norms were again in force.

Now that we better understand what culture is and consists of, we can talk about culture shock.  I experienced this when I went from Michigan to the country of Malawi. I was trading not only countries, but races as well.  As I went from the dreary parts of Michigan to the warm heart of Africa, I could not help but feel out-of-place.  The people talked different, transportation was odd to me, and do not get me started on the food.  As I immediately began comparing the two places, for a time, I began to think my home was better, simply because we did not eat caterpillars and all (for the most part) spoke the same language.  Although those thoughts passed as I spent more time there, I now realize that to be Ethnocentrism.  I feel bad holding what I was used to as being better than where I was, but that is a fairly common thing to do.  Looking back, I think that Ethnocentrism could even be the founder of racism.  It would not be very hard for those feelings of, “My culture is better than yours,” to lead to the idea that, “I am better than you.”

As time went on, I became more acceptable to the culture and the people around me. In turn, it became easier for me to practice cultural relativism, or the judging of peoples’ behaviors based on their own culture.  For instance, eating bugs as part of a meal.  In America, it is considered disgusting, however, in Malawi it would be considered normal.  So as I began to practice cultural relativism, I no longer deemed that as wrong and took part in such cultural activities.

While I was in Malawi, I went to some interesting places.  Once, we were invited into a very wealthy Indian man’s home.  I felt so strange because I was still in Malawi, but everything I had come to associate Malawi with was gone.  Instead of a dirt floor, he had tile.  He told us that he resented the dirtiness of most of the people there.  He almost lived to set himself apart from the dirtiness of the rest of the country.  As we left this man’s home, we looked around and realized that there was a whole group of people who felt the same way.  This counter-culture openly opposed the main culture of Malawi, but they could not get rid of the main culture entirely.

New Picture

As I moved from the warm heart of Africa to the neighboring country, Zambia, I noticed that because of the size of the country and number of different tribes, it was hard for them to be united under one culture.  In the north, you had the Bembas, in the south was the Tongas, and eastward was home of the Chewas.  These subcultures were still able to relate to most things, but you just knew that they were different.   They differed in their mores, folkways, and values of the larger society (Jon, 2011, 63). I believe that the shared main culture within all of the tribes of Zambia is what keeps it together. If a country lacks that main culture similarity and there are competing cultures fighting for dominance, the result may very well be civil war.  Looking at the civil war in the United States, the culture of the South was to have slaves while the culture in the North was anti-slavery.  The two different cultures were so close to each other, within the same country, the differences could only be solved by war.

Culture is very much a part of who we are.  Every day we are shaped by our culture and the rules that come with it.  We need our culture to hold us together and help society to continue to advance.  When we are placed into a culture that we do not relate with, we are shocked.

Works Cited

“Culture Shock”. OxfordUniversity Press. 2013 2/23/13 <

Witt, Jon. Soc 2012 Ed. Boedeker, Gina. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2011. Posted by: Fallon Burke, 2009  Titled Chaos in Classroom.



It’s been said and understood that the socialization of a child starts as early as infancy. As the child grows up, they begin to act as their parents do when certain situations come up. Their parents and their society are their standard of normal. Within this society there are symbols. According to our textbook “SOC,” Symbols can be anything from a gesture, an object, or even a word that forms a basis of human communication (Witt).  Children can pick up on these symbols at a very early age. Children pick up on social norms and symbols by observing how their parents act, and through these observations they link meanings to actions. For example, my parents would always fold their hands when they were praying. As I grew up in a Christian church, I would do the same.

The whole idea behind Children reacting to symbols is very similar to other sociological concepts. The first major concept that a child reacting to symbols is like is socialization. Socialization, according to SOC, is the lifelong process through which people learn the attitudes, values, and behaviors appropriate for members of a particular culture. Children learning about symbols are basically part of socialization because the child has to learn about the culture, the symbol, and how the two go together. It’s all about the child learning things and applying it to how they act. It’s common when a child is so used to the symbols for the child to have culture shock when they visit other cultures. For example, a book published by the West Side Toast Masters says that holding two fingers up in America can either mean “peace” or it can signal the letter two. If you were to make the same kind gesture to someone in Greece, that person would take offense because in Greece the gesture means “up yours.” Similarly, I once hurt my middle finger and my doctor suggested that I keep it elevated. It was quite humorous to see how many people were offended because of the doctor’s orders. All of these things happen because we are trained to react a certain way to gestures, it differs from culture to culture so mixing is problematic at times.

Another issue I’d like to touch on that comes with symbols is the interpretation of religious symbols. I grew up in a very religious home so I was taught to have reverence for the cross. The cross to my family and me was a symbol of redemption and purpose. To others, it could be a symbol of family unity. And who knows what else it could mean to others. My point is that the meaning of the cross is up to the interpretation of the culture or subculture and that is passed onto children.

In conclusion, we have our own interpretation to what symbols mean even though they may be different than other cultures. Children’s interaction skills start by interacting with basic symbols that are all around them and whether they realize it or not, their perception of these symbols will stick with them for a very long time. Our perception of simple hand gestures, religious and political symbols, and even simple shapes and colors all spawned from our socialization in our preparatory stage. Our understanding of symbols will be passed onto our children and our grandchildren; it’s just how our society works.


Work Cited

Witt, Jon. SOC 2011. 2ndnd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011. 326. Print.

“Cultural Differences.” West Side Toast Masters. N.p.. Web. 25 Feb 2013. <;.



All cultures have certain rites of passage among their population. A rite of passage is defined as “a ritual marking the symbolic transition from one social position to another“(Witt 88). Rites of passage can vary in importance. However they normally involve moving up into a new chapter of life. They are important to cultures and many young children think about the day where they can become a man/woman. In the United States, at the age of sixteen, most teenagers go through the act of getting their driver’s license.  Although after having your license for a while it just becomes a normal way of life, many young children fantasize about their sixteenth birthday so they can join the other adults on the road. Other important birthdays that are treated as rites of passage can be the eighteenth, twenty-first or fiftieth. When one turns eighteen, they have officially soared into the world of adulthood. The twenty-first birthday is when one can legally drink alcohol and the fiftieth birthday is one that many dread. The fiftieth birthday is a milestone of having reached the age of being a senior.

Not all rites of passage in the United States are birthdays, major life events can fall into this category as well. Graduation from high school or college is a passage into the next stage of life. Getting married for the first time and having a baby for the first time allows one to move into a new social status such as being a wife/ husband and a parent.

While reading of other culture’s rite of passage ceremonies, I found myself judging other cultures because of safety or health hazards. My display of ethnocentrism is how many people of the United States would act upon hearing of these events. In Vanuatu, men participate in a rite of passage called land diving. Once a male reaches the age of seven or eight and has been circumcised, they can partake in this event. These males climb on top of a ninety-eight foot tower. They tie vines to their ankles and jump. A good jump ends with the male’s head or shoulders touching the ground. However vines do not have the elastic qualities that bungee cords do, so a miscalculation in the length of the vine can end in serious injuries or death. During a boy’s first jump, his mother holds onto an item signifying his childhood, when he dives the mother throws the item away. This event is now becoming a tourist attraction for people to come see. However many experience culture shock and cannot believe the danger these men put themselves in.

In the Northwest Amazon, the Tukuna people have a rite of passage for young women that involve alienation. Once a young girl begins her menstruation period for the first time, she is forced into seclusion for four to twelve weeks. She is put in a chamber within the dwelling of the family that is constructed for this purpose. The girl is thought to be in danger of demons called the Noo while in this chamber. Near the end of this ritual, guests arrive in masks that allow them to become incarnations of the Noo. After this encounter with these “demons” the young girl stays within the chamber for another two days, she paints her body with black genipa dye for protection from the Noo. After the alienation is over, the young girl is surrounded by her relatives and led out into festivities where her family dances around her until dawn. At that time she is given a fire brand that she will throw at the Noo, breaking their power. The young girl has now safely entered into womanhood.

Even more extreme rites of passage can be found around the world, many of them involve circumcision or body mutilations. Although people of these cultures put themselves through great pain, the reward to become a man/woman is so great that cultures cherish these events and they have lasted through generations. Industrial and post-industrial societies tend not to have such violent acts as rites of passages. Rites of passages that are less extreme include ceremonies such as a Bar Mitzvah for Jewish boys transitioning into men. Whether extreme or not, each type of passage is important to the culture from which it comes from.


Works Cited

“10 Bizarre Rites Of Passage.” Listverse. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

“8 Interesting (And Insane) Male Rites of Passages From Around the World.” The Art of Manliness RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <;.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <;.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. < wedding-cake-topper-2013.jpg>.

Witt, Jon. SOC 2012. Ed. Gina Boedeker. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. 88. Print.


One of the most well-known sociological theories is George Ritzer’s idea of McDonaldization. This idea initially leads many to think of the company McDonald’s for which the term is properly coined after. McDonaldization defined by the sociologist George Ritzer is “The process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world” (Gordon). Ritzer’s based his idea’s on sociologist Max Weber’s work, that capitalism and industrialization were fueling a world in which our individual freedoms are being eroded.

By adapting Weber’s concerns to a more contemporary setting Ritzer saw that the fast food industry, in particular, is a great factor in how society is being effected today. The way that fast food industries prepare food for consumers is a prime example of Max Weber’s theory of the rationalization of the modern world. For instance, these companies use methods of scientific management for the improvement of economic efficiency (Wikipedia) and Fordism, which is the process of standardizing mass production (Wikipedia). These methods can guarantee, efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control to customers. Due to such practices, McDonald’s and other fast food companies included are having a negative effect over many other social institutions. Methods in the fast food industries continue to invade other aspects of our lives; health care, education, and even the media are impacted by McDonaldization’s expansion and acceptance in today’s society.

These four main dimensions of McDonaldization are achieved by taking rationalization to the extreme. In sociology, rationalization is simply defined as the way to replace logical rules for illogical ones ( By doing this, almost every task is simplified to its greatest possibility and results in an efficient, logical sequence of methods that can complete the task the exact way every time with the same precise desired outcome.

Having the ability to have controlled, consistent, and measurable outcomes are what any business works for. Seeing how these goals are rewarding for businesses and consumers, how might it be seen as a problem? As we all know, fast food is not the healthiest choice out there. It is high in fat, salt, and low in nutritional value. With obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems on the rise, it simply makes little sense for us to continue eating such products. This has non-Americans stumped as to why the norm is accepted when all the negative side effects of fast food are understood and yet we have no problem continuing to indulge in it. Once over the culture shock of our dependency on fast food, foreigners lose the ethnocentrism they once had and they themselves fall into our material culture.

Just like our craving for fast food, our educational system is seeking a more efficient model for our future generations. Standardized test and using inventions like social media have drawbacks (Bruenderman). Thanks to a rationalized model of education, teachers simply fill the students like boxes for the sole purpose of passing the next test. This process is efficient and means that the students have the best chance of graduation. Consequently, if all you learned in school were dates and facts, where would the personal interactions we all learned from go? As a result, what was once an intellectual exchange of knowledge between professor and student now results in nothing more than a business transaction. The students today are seen as consumers with the ideal that they need to go to college to get a job which in the past was looked at as a way to further a persons education rather than increasing their future salary. Regrettably, the restructuring of education from McDonaldization not only is occurring in schools but the media as well.

Today’s media, like the USA Today for example, has changed the way local newspapers present the news (Bruenderman) . Look at how headlines today are presented. Stories are shorter, contain only the needed information and infrequently do they continue to a second page. This lets the reader or viewer learn about many stories in a short amount of time without having to turn the page or flip channels. Media has also become brighter in the sense that journalists and reporters include brighter colors to grab attention. These tactics have lead to greater profits for news media outlets around the world. However, contemporary news is now more about entertaining the readers instead of informing them. Subsequently, the McDonaldization of the news does not accurately educate readers or let them form their own opinions on issues that are being reported about.

Taking the time to look at how much this country has shifted from quality to quantity shows how greatly the well being, learning, and our media insight have become McDonalized. Thanks to rationalization, people across these parts of society have become hypnotized into believing “more is better.”  I believe it would be highly beneficial to combat this growing problem if we look closely at all the different ways our lives are affected by McDonaldization, first starting with its effects on LansingCommunity College. Looking at how our daily observations and interactions in which we spend almost half the year could lead to a greater understanding of the negative effects McDonaldization has on our daily lives. In doing this, maybe we will find a way to reverse the effects this McDonaldized society has on us.

Work Cited

Bruenderman, Andrew. NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF McDONALDIZATION. Rep. no. 2. Vol. 1. N.p.: GattonCollege of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky, n.d. Print.

“Fordism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

GORDON MARSHALL. “McDonaldization.A Dictionary of Sociology. 21            Feb. 2013.

Kaufman, Peter. “The Rationality of Irrationality.” Web log post. N.p., 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 20 Feb.     2013. (McDonald space man picture found here as well)

“ – What Is It?” – What Is It? N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.       (Lady Eating Burger Pic)

“McDonaldization Theory of George Ritzer.” YouTube. YouTube, 24 Oct. 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

“Rationalization (sociology).” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

“Scientific Management.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.


Imagine you are planning a much needed vacation and you decide to go to China.  You are on the plane when you arrive at your destination.  Getting off the plane and walking into the airport, you notice some things that are different than in the United States.  As you continue to walk through the airport and make your way towards where you will be living during your vacation, you realize things are very different than where you from.  People are speaking a different language, wearing different clothes, and eating different foods; those are just some of the differences between cultures.  When people visit another country or anywhere different from where they live, they experience some uneasiness or may be a bit uncomfortable.  This is called culture shock.  Most people will experience some degree of culture shock when they visit another area different from where they are from.

 Culture shock can be described as the feelings one experiences after leaving their familiar home culture to live in another cultural or social environment.  It occurs when the cultural symbols or signs that we use in social interaction are stripped away.  Some symptoms of culture shock that people may experience are homesickness, withdrawal, irritability, or the person might even feel a bit hostile towards the people of the new area because they do things differently than what the person is used to which is part of the cause for the person feeling uncomfortable.  They may feel negatively towards the people that live in the new area because they are different and don’t do things the way the visiting person is used to.  When people travel to other countries, they may come in contact with a counterculture.  A counterculture is a subculture that opposes certain aspects of the larger culture.  There may be people within a culture that do things differently than the rest of the people within that culture.  Another concept related to culture shock is ethnocentrism, which is when someone assumes that their own culture or way of life represent what is normal or are better than others.  Some people may realize they think this way when they travel away from home.

There are some things a person can do to prepare for culture shock and possibly try to prevent it or minimize it a bit.  It is a good idea to learn as much as you can about where you are going before you go.  Familiarizing yourself with the culture and what it will be like will help dealing with culture shock.  A person should try to stay open-minded when traveling somewhere new.  They could try to have a sense of humor about things to lighten the mood of the situation a bit, or possibly making a new friend in the new country would help.  Making a new friend means you would have someone who knows all about the culture of the area and could be of great help with any questions or concerns.  You could also bring some things with you to remind you of home, such as a favorite picture of your loved ones, or some other special item that will make you think of home and feel more comfortable.  It would also be good to keep in touch with people back home, such as friends and family.  They will help put your mind at ease, give you some advice and support when you are feeling uncomfortable and alone in a new place.  Perhaps the most important thing someone can do when traveling to a new place is to not give up.  You should just keep trying to figure things out in the new area, and just try to stay positive about the situation.  It won’t necessarily be easy at first, but it will get better.

Culture shock is a common thing to deal with when traveling to a new area.  People feel uncomfortable and sometimes even scared when they don’t know what is going on.  There are several things that can be done to deal with culture shock, and if people try to do these things and don’t give up, they can overcome the feeling of culture shock and have a great time in the new area they are traveling to.


SOC1“That’s so gay”. “Don’t be gay”. “No homo”. “What a fag”. All of these remarks can be heard almost daily. It is socially unacceptable or undesirable to be gay. A stigma is a label used to devalue members of certain social groups (Witt). Whether or not these remarks are directed at a gay person, it fuels the stigma against homosexuals and homosexuality.

My mom and dad got divorced in 1997 and my mom came out as a lesbian. Since then she has gotten married (legally in the state of New York) to her partner of 12 years, Lara. I have seen and experienced first hand the discrimination gay and lesbians experience due to the stigma homosexuality has.

Society puts us under immense amounts of pressure not to veer off from the norms.  In order to avoid the stigma many people live their whole lives in the closet, afraid of what might happen if they come out. They will be seen as deviant and will experience negative sanctions for their decision to come out as homosexual. Many people are bullied, beaten, and even murdered or driven to suicide because their sexual orientation violates the mores society dictates everyone should live by.

There is group superiority that extreme homophobic people have, such as Focus On The Family, One Million Moms, and the American Family Association. These groups feel as though being gay is deviant and shouldn’t be shown on television, supported legally, or given any civil rights. These people see being homosexual as taboo.

The family structure in American is changing. There is no longer the ideal husband, wife, 2.5 kids, and dog. There are families with adopted children, single parent households, guardians, and families with gay parents. As a child of a lesbian I had my own experiences with the stigma attached to having a gay parent. People assume that the child of a gay parent will become gay themselves. There is this theory that being gay is somehow contagious or a choice.

When traveling to Italy last summer I was in a bit of culture shock when I realized that being gay was more accepted than it is in America. My mom and Lara could walk around holding hands without being stared at. Though as we have seen with each election people are becoming more and more accepting with many states making gay marriage legal. When my mom and Lara got married in New York there was a celebration of love and acceptance. They were finally able to legally declare their love, just as heterosexual couples have always been able to.

Homosexuals have become their own subculture. Since they have been discriminated against and cast as the out group, they have band together. They have their own bars, clubs, vacation spots, and even argot. “Let’s have a kiki”, “spill the tea”, and “throwing shade” all started as “gay lingo” then started spreading to the mainstream media.

There has been a push by the government, media, and people throughout America to take the stigma out of being gay. This will take time and might never happen, but through elections, television shows, music, and people supporting one another the stigma has decreased little by little over time.