BOOK REVIEW – Transitions Across Cultures

‘One of the unfortunate things I have observed… is how few people are well prepared for cross-cultural transitions.’

Going through a time of change can be extremely challenging. Change can be emotionally taxing, physically demanding, and mentally draining, and there are few more significant changes than moving overseas.

In Transitions Across Cultures, Stephen W. Jones gives us a short guide to culture shock, the often unpleasant collection of symptoms associated with moving from one culture to another. It’s a quick read, but one that would be very valuable for ‘travellers and those who love them’ (as it says on the cover).

‘It is not a sign of spiritual weakness to encounter culture shock. It is, instead, a sign that you are human.’

Easy to digest

Jones is the son of a US naval officer – spending much of his childhood overseas – and now works with cross-cultural college students, so he knows well the challenges of cultural transition. He begins Transitions by outlining the purpose of the book, before giving us a brief introduction to the concept of culture, then the effects of transition, and culture shock itself. Each chapter is written as a series of short concepts, making the main points clear and easy to digest. This is not an in-depth guide, but it’s a perfect introduction for the beginner and a good reminder even for the seasoned traveller.

Putting it into practice

The second half of this book gives practical guidance of how to mitigate some of the effects of culture shock and having a successful experience. These are again presented as quick snapshots: ‘acknowledge your expectations’, ‘prepare yourself to cope’, and even ‘have fun’. Whilst concise, they are useful introductions to very practical concepts and their thoughtful application will make a significant difference to your experience of cultural transition.

Jones goes on to cover so-called ‘reverse culture shock’ or ‘re-entry shock’, recognising that coming ‘home’ is just as much of a transition, often even more so, as travelling overseas. This makes Transitions a great book to give to your church, your parents, or anyone else who would like to understand better what you’re going through and what emotions you’re feeling now you’ve returned.

If you’re looking for a concise, practical, affordable introduction to the topic of culture shock, Transitions Across Cultures is a great choice. For more information, accompanying resources, or to pick up a copy, go to The Practical Interculturalist website.

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