Friday, 11 April 2008

Countering the culture shock


A good article I think. Useful if you are new to Shanghai...

LIFE for newcomers to Shanghai can be vibrant and exciting. More often than not though it is overwhelming and daunting. Luckily, help is at hand, writes Sam Riley.

While starting a new life in Shanghai can be the adventure of a lifetime, for some expats adjusting to living in China can be a difficult experience.

Crashing headlong into a totally new culture and a language they don't speak can be a daunting and sometimes alienating experience for new arrivals.

The Community Center Shanghai specializes in helping expats overcome this so-called "culture shock" by conducting a range of programs designed to make settling into life in this vibrant and exciting city easier.

As well as courses, the center conducts specifically tailored orientation programs for executives of some of the biggest multi-national companies operating in Shanghai...

The center's Puxi director Michelle Wright says it is common for new arrivals to feel overwhelmed by the challenge of performing seemingly simple tasks when they first arrive in China.

"Coming from a Western country to Asia can be very, very different and there is so much new that you are being affected by," she says.

"Traffic patterns, common courtesies are very different, for example. Even the written language is different so you don't have your normal reference points. (But) it's much easier to adjust now than it was 10 or even five years ago because there's a lot more help available.''

Wright says family members or friends of expats can recognize the symptoms of "culture shock," which include outbursts of anger or frustration with aspects of life in China. Other "culture shock" sufferers may become withdrawn and isolate themselves. In more serious cases, some even become depressed...

But the challenges and rewards of beginning a new life in a totally different environment do not stop after the first adjustment period.

Community Center Shanghai executive director Christina Showalter says many people found that after they had adjusted to life in China, a range of new opportunities for personal growth arose.

"Once they have found a circle of friends, become established, eaten in restaurants, gone shopping, been to bars, people tend to look for meaning in their lives," she says.

"People soon find there are so many opportunities for personal growth, whether that be through learning new skills or contributing to the local community."

The Community Center Shanghai will run a free half-day orientation program on Saturday. The course covers a range of topics such as getting settled, hiring household staff and managing workplace challenges.

Shanghai 123 - Orientation for New Arrivals

Date: April 12, 9:30am-2:30pm

Venue: Puxi Community Center at the Sun-Tec Medical Center, Annex Building 4/F, 2281 Hongqiao Rd

Tel: 5175-0519

Register online at

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