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Cross-cultural communication and intercultural adjustment are both rather complicated processes that demand considerable effort from migrants. They have to accommodate to the linguistic, cultural, psychological and other peculiarities of the new culture and be ready to understand it even if it contradicts their native culture. This paper will focus on the experiences I have acquired in the UK in respect of cultural adjustment. I will try to explain my experiences on the basis of such theories of cultural adjustment as U-curve theory and W-curve theory.
To start with, it is necessary to define both chosen theories to have better understanding of what I will focus on in the following passages. Thus, the U-curve theory is the concept according to which every person trying to accommodate to the new culture goes through four distinct stages in this process. These stages are the so-called “honeymoon stage”, disillusionment stage, adjustment stage and mastery stage. These stages are successful but can last for different periods of time in different people (Martin and Nakayama, 2003). Further on, the W-curve theory is the concept stating that after returning to the native culture, the person that experienced U-curve stages faces cultural shock of returning home. W-curve stages are similar to those of U-curve with the only difference that they make to falls and two rises creating “W” letter on the graph (Martin and Nakayama, 2003).
As for my personal experience in the UK, I can say that I have experienced the influence of the U-curve theory in all its phases. Going to the UK a year and a half ago, I was sure to arrive in the country of my dreams. The first two months of my life here seemed to be perfect indeed. I went sightseeing, displayed interest in everything that was new to me including local shops, museums, etc. This was the “honeymoon stage” of my living in the UK. Soon, however, it was substituted by the stage of disillusionment. My study became a problem as I could not catch up with the schedule and could not ask others for help as I had difficulties with speaking English properly. It also seemed to me that people in the streets, cafes and stores did not understand me at all although I could formulate my ideas at least in the simplest way. These were the hardest two months in my being in the UK, but fortunately soon I realized that the problem was not in the people around me. The main issue was that I tried to behave as I was used to in China not taking into consideration the national peculiarities of the British culture. As soon as I started understanding psychology and mentality of the British, I realized that everything was improving.
Moreover, soon I found out that my results in study started getting better as well as my communication skills outside the classroom. This was the adjustment stage which was quickly changed by the mastery stage. It was reflected in my abilities to cooperate with other people feeling no discomfort and without positioning myself inferior or superior. My fellow students also began to understand me better. I could easily not only do such simple things as go shopping or attend a café with my friends but also argue with my professors on this or that topic in my study courses or chatter with my classmates on whatever the topic could be.
Thus, I think that I went through the U-curve adjustment to the foreign culture during my stay in UK. However, I am strongly convinced that I will face W-curve when I return to China. W-curve theory presupposes cultural shock caused by native culture after one has adjusted to the foreign one (Martin and Nakayama, 2003). As far as I have adjusted to the culture of UK quite well, I think that W-curve will influence me when I return home. Nevertheless, I hope that knowledge about such peculiarities of human mind in respect of cross cultural adjustment as U-curve and W-curve will help me stand that influence easier.
Martin, Judith and Thomas Nakayama. Intercultural Communication in Contexts. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 3 edition, 2003.