Letters from the dorm: Dealing with culture shock

By Elaine Leung, 19, Durham University
By Elaine Leung, 19, Durham University |

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My post-A-level, three-month summer holiday ended last week. Although I really didn't want to see the end of summer, my holiday did have a perfect ending, as my British friend came over to visit me in Hong Kong.

On her last day, I asked her to describe Hong Kong in one word. She replied: "manic".

Throughout her 10-day stay, she had been feeling a bit confused. It was culture shock, no doubt.

Culture shock refers to a situation where a person feels nervous or out of place when exposed to new customs or traditions.

But, she said, "it's been an interesting and fun-filled experience".

Having been brought up in a small English town, my friend had never experienced such a fast-paced lifestyle.

So when we walked along Nathan Road and around Tsim Sha Tsui, she seemed stunned by the vibe of a multicultural city. She was also surprised at the efficiency of cha chaan teng waiters, and how Hongkongers usually spent only 10 to 20 minutes over a meal.

She also found Hongkongers spend less time with their families than British people.

The Brits, and Europeans in general, usually give the impression of enjoying a laid-back lifestyle. So when I first moved to Britain from Hong Kong, I found it hard to adjust to the British way of life. This meant I could understand why my friend had such a tough time getting used to a very different culture.

One thing I've learned from travelling and studying abroad is that it's not easy for foreigners to adjust to new surroundings. My friend had problems getting used to the humidity in Hong Kong, and the fact that we eat the meat on the bones. But in the end, she grew to embrace the differences in culture, and this made her stay a meaningful and interesting one.

Like my friend, I am now ready to immerse myself into British culture and make the best out of my first year at university.


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