Culture and Country Learning

by Jessica Purdy

Preparing for Culture Shock

Culture shock is what happens when someone travels to a new place and feels overwhelmed by the differences between the new place and their home. This experience is normal for anyone in a new culture. However, we can limit and manage this by learning as much about the culture as possible before going.

What to do

Luckily, there are several online resources you can use to learn about the culture where you are going. To start, check out CIA World Factbook, Encyclopedia Britannica, the Joshua Project, and International SOS Country Guide. There are many other places you can look too. Try to answer the following questions:


  • What are families like (marriages, size of family, roles of children, living situations, etc)?
  • What is leadership like among these people (church, political, educational, ect.)
  • Where are these people located (find a map)?
  • What is relevant historical information about these people?
  • What is the acceptable clothing for men and women when working, when playing, when exercising, when visiting people, and any other relevant times?
  • What are the customs for greeting people, taking leave from others, and being in meetings with others (be sure to not if there are differences for men and women)?
  • What are the holidays and typical days off for businesses that could affect your time of service?


  • What is the labor force (types of jobs) and economy (income, economic situation, markets) of the people?
  • What is the exchange rate?
  • What is the current educational system like, and what are typical levels of education for the people you will visit?
  • What are current events that are making headlines in the area?
  • What are environmental, social, and international issues affecting the people of the area?


  • How do the people feel about foreigners and Christians who visit?
  • What is the religious makeup of the people (% Christian, Muslim, Atheist, etc.)?
  • What are Christian beliefs or practices that may be very different than those you are used to?
  • What are beliefs and practices of other religions in the area that you should be aware of?

Answering these questions doesn’t give you everything you need to know, but it is a good start! Having this information will lessen the impact of culture stress and help you feel more prepared as you embark on your short-term trip.


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