Cultural Fatigue

Cultural Fatigue Insights

Cultural Fatigue


“Cultural Fatigue is the physical and emotional exhaustion that almost invariably results from the infinite series of minute adjustments required for long-term survival in an alien culture. Living and working overseas generally requires that one must suspend his automatic evaluations and judgments, that he must supply new interpretations to seemingly familiar behavior and that he must demand of himself constant alterations in the style and content of his activity. Whether this process is conscious or unconscious, successful, or unsuccessful, it consumes and enormous amount of energy leaving the individual decidedly fatigued…”

- Cultural Confrontation in the Philippines
From a Chapter in the Book Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps.

Maybe this a helpful reference:
Cultural Confrontation in the Philippines. In Textor ed, Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps. MIT Press, 1965.

1. Cultural Fatigue "It ain't right."


Living in a room, the faucets are not marked, there is cultural fatigue created when a person has to learn the new systems or lack of system.

2. Cultural Fatigue Cognitive Dissonance


Cultural Fatigue is created by asking oneself why? A foreigner in a culture can ask simple questions, for example directions. The person give direction however they are not correct, the search for understanding of why this occurs causes cultural fatigue.

3. Cultural Fatigue "TMI - Too much information."



Cultural Fatigue
Here are some proposed ideas, please do not become rigid or frozen in your views, there is no one answer to cultural fatigue.

Cause of Cultural Fatigue
When you leave one specific area of a planet and move to another, there is a time period in which the person must adjust, adapt and learn to manage this real problem.

Type of Travelers or Tourist

1. Travel alone in areas with other foreigners
2. Travel alone in areas with no other foreigners
3. Travel as couple in areas with no other foreigners
4. Travel as couples in areas with no other foreigners
5. Travel alone and have a based social groups such as job, organization or groups.
- i.e. Peace Corps having central office.
6. Travel as couple and have a based social groups such as job, organization or groups.
- i.e. Missionaries who have a church that is affiliated

Coping Mechanisms

Action-based coping
Action-based coping involves actually dealing with a problem that is causing stress. Examples can include getting a second job in the face of financial difficulties, or studying to prepare for exams. Examples of action-based coping include planning, suppression of competing activities, confrontation, self-control, and restraint.

  1. Going Home
  2. Retreat into social groups
  3. Travelers Nest
  4. Searching for social groups that emulate your own culture.
  5. Routine
  6. Visiting same restaurant, club, etc daily or regularly.

Emotion-based coping
Emotion-based coping skills reduce the symptoms of stress without addressing the source of the stress. sleeping or discussing the stress with a friend are all emotion-based coping strategies. Other examples include denial, repression, wishful thinking, distraction, relaxation, reappraisal, and humor. There are both positive and negative coping strategies that can be defined as emotion-based. Emotion-based coping can be useful to reduce stress to a manageable level, enabling action-based coping, or when the source of stress can not be addressed directly.

  1. Denial
  2. Keeping busy
  3. Mating or finding a person of opposite sex to share intimate talk
  4. Go Native

Harmful coping methods
Some coping methods are more like habits than skills, and can be harmful. Overused, they may actually worsen one's condition. Alcohol, cocaine and other drugs may provide temporary escape from one's problems, but, with excess use, ultimately result in greater problems.

  1. Alcohol or drugs
  2. Prostitutes


Conflict Resolution in Animals
- Note, I am including this because when communication breaks down, we regress

Conflict resolution has also been studied in non-humans, like dogs, cats, monkeys, elephants, and primates (see Frans de Waal, 2000). Aggression is more common among relatives and within a group, than between groups. Instead of creating a distance between the individuals, however, the primates were more intimate in the period after the aggressive incident. These intimacies consisted of grooming and various forms of body contact. Stress responses, like an increased heart rate, usually decrease after these reconciliatory signals. Different types of primates, as well as many other species who are living in groups, show different types of conciliatory behaviour. Resolving conflicts that threaten the interaction between individuals in a group is necessary for survival, hence has a strong evolutionary value. These findings contradicted previous existing theories about the general function of aggression, i.e. creating space between individuals (first proposed by Konrad Lorenz), which seems to be more the case in conflicts between groups than it is within groups.

In addition to research in primates, biologists are beginning to explore reconciliation in other animals. Up until recently, the literature dealing with reconciliation in non-primates have consisted of anecdotal observations and very little quantitative data. Although peaceful post-conflict behavior had been documented going back to the 1960s, it wasn’t until 1993 that Rowell made the first explicit mention of reconciliation in feral sheep. Reconciliation has since been documented in spotted hyenas,[1] lions, dolphins,[2] dwarf mongooses, domestic goats,[3] and domestic dogs.[4]


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