Adapting from our culture of origin to a new culture can be exciting but also stressful. Human beings vary in their capacity to adapt, with some people thriving on continual adaptation while others preferring stability and little change. There is no right or wrong and feeling stress from adapting is normal and natural.
What is Acculturative Stress?
The stress that occurs when we migrate from one culture to another is called acculturative stress. The sources of acculturative stress are many and varied but may include:
- separation from family or friends;
- loss of things which are familiar to us that used to be part of everyday life such as food, climate, rituals, sports and events;
- and, more broadly, missing the way we live out our daily lives from when (and how) we wake in the morning to go to bed at night.
And of course the big one is language! Learning a new language is hard. Especially English, which often may use the same word for many different meanings in different contexts and situations. And then of course there is the difference between taught English and the actual “English” that is spoken by “fair dinkum” Aussies!
However – did you know that many migrants from English speaking countries such as USA or the UK also struggle to understand just what Aussies are talking about?! Yes, it’s true. This is because of what is called vernacular, or colloquial language. Have you ever been confused when asked to “bring a plate” when invited to a party? Why do Aussies say “see ya later” when there is no chance of that happening? No wonder people get confused.
There is now a great understanding of the psychology of acculturation and some psychologists specialise in this field. We now know that in order to be able to help people with stress and other psychological issues we need to understand the person in the context of their culture, their stage of language acquisition, their pre-migration experiences and their post-migration experiences. This is known as culturally responsive service provision.
With over 15 years’ experience in the field of transcultural mental health as an educator and a clinician, I have worked with migrants from all over the world. This includes working with international students, and developing and delivering training to service providers who support international students.
I utilise a contextually competent approach that is tailored to the specific context of the individual I am working with.
Whether you’re a student, a business migrant, a skilled migrant, a person from a refugee background, a person who has been in Australia for a long time, or a recent arrival, I would love to utilise my skills and experience to assist you with your acculturation journey.
Author: Greg Turner, B App Sc, Grad Dip App Sc (App Psych), Cert GMH, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Greg Turner is a national leader in the field of transcultural mental health, after spending over a decade in senior positions at the Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Centre. He sees his role as a facilitator to enable clients to recover their psychological strength, grow as human beings, and become equipped with strategies to deal with life’s problems as they present into the future.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Greg Turner, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.