Culture Shock


Living outside of one’s home country is a cultural shock. The term ‘culture shock’ refers to the period of cultural adjustment and may include everything from getting used to the food to something as simple as using the telephone. It refers to the disorientation and anxiety resulting from a loss of all-familiar signs, cues, and symbols of social interaction. Cues such as gestures, facial expressions, customs, and norms are acquired in the course of growing up. When an individual enters a new environment or strange culture, the person is suddenly stripped of all familiarity and knowledge of cultural cues. Adjusting to a new culture is challenging and frustrating no matter how flexible or patient you are. Every individual differs in the degree in which they experience cultural shock. Cultural shock is unavoidable. Instead of trying to avoid it, you can find ways to alleviate the difficulties and frustrations that come with cultural shock. Take note that it is not that people in Asia are unfriendly or don’t want to talk to you; they are generally shy and less likely to make the initial move to talk to you. Once the ice is broken, Malaysians are very curious and want to get to know you and your country better.

The following tips are to help you get through the psychological and emotional aspects of culture shock.

  • Have a positive attitude and be open-minded
  • Be curious and have a strong sense of humour
  • Have strong self-esteem and be able to cope with failure
  • Be flexible and adaptable
  • Take advantage of the services the University offers.
  • Exercise and keep active.

Remember that all international students, whether in Malaysia or elsewhere, should share what they are going through. Living in a foreign country will open new doors, introduce new ways of thinking, and provide the opportunity to make friends from all walks of life.

About Malaysia

  1. Introduction
  2. Culture Shock
  3. Preparation
  4. Arriving in Malaysia
  5. Staying in Malaysia
  6. Life on campus
  7. Life in Malaysia
  8. Things to Do
  9. Bahasa Malaysia


The Occupational Medicine Clinic is a referral clinic for occupational diseases and is open on every Friday in University Malaya Medical Centre.