Kulturchok hos danske udvekslingsstuderende: En empirisk analyse af danske CBS studerendes kulturchok under deres udvekslingsophold i Spanien

Isabelle Jørgensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Although culture shock is a highly misinterpreted term often connected with negative connotations, it is however not uncommon to experience culture shock while living abroad in a foreign culture. This thesis is based on both culture shock theory and data collected through quantitative questionnaires and qualitative interviews. In this thesis I focus on Danish students, who during their bachelor’s degree at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) spent half a year abroad studying at a Spanish partner university. The aim of this thesis is to analyze and estimate whether these students experience culture shock during their stay in Spain, to identify the contributory factors to their experienced culture shock and to clarify if the preparation that the students receive at CBS is of importance to the emergence of culture shock. Due to the fact that these students are all required to pass a Spanish language test in order to study at a Spanish university, they all have a high level of Spanish linguistic skills. Furthermore, most of these students have gained knowledge about the Spanish culture, history and political situation through their studies at CBS. Nonetheless, I argue that 38 % of the informants experience culture shock during their period of exchange. After a methodological triangulation of the results from the two studies, it appears that some factors seem to be of importance to the emergence of culture shock that the students experience. The limited duration of the stay and the friendships the exchange students seek are among these factors. Too much interaction with other Danes and not enough interaction with Spanish people seem to be both symptoms as well as contributory factors to the culture shock, since they affect the students’ adaptation to the Spanish culture. Besides these factors, the studies show that certain cultural factors can also be of importance to the emergence of culture shock. These factors include significant changes in the exchange students’ identity but also a lack of change, the students’ perception of the Spanish culture based on their own ethnocentric world view and the great cultural distance between the Danish and Spanish culture. These are all factors that can result in poor adjustment to the Spanish culture and thereby the emergence of culture shock. Change or lack of change in the everyday life, the social environment and the physical surroundings and psychological factors such as high unattainable expectations, anxiety and problems encountered during the stay also seem to have an impact on the extent to which a culture shock emerges during the exchange period. In this thesis I argue that Danish students do experience culture shock during their stay in Spain, despite their thorough knowledge about the Spanish culture and language. The knowledge they have is of limited use if the students are not willing to accept the differences and the backstage reasons for the onstage culture. I therefore argue that culture training in itself is not enough to prevent culture shock. What the students lack is culture contact training. Results from the qualitative study indicate that information about culture shock could help reduce the emergence of culture shock. However, since CBS does not include information about culture shock in their preparation efforts of the Danish students, this preparation does not have any preventive effect, nor does it affect the emergence of culture shock.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages94