Reflective Exercise

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Reflective Essay 4

A reflective essay on cultural dissonance


According to Beverley (2004), cultural dissonance is the sense of disharmony or discord experienced by a person who is engaged in a culturally diverse environment. The feeling is felt by people in a situation of cultural environmental change. The phenomenon arises due to the cultural complexity of the world today (Henry 2006). It is usually a psychological conflict experienced by people in a complex culture. The different cultures usually bring this confusing sense (Lehman 1997). This reflective essay will analyze the cultural values that caused dissonance to me when I joined university and how I overcame them.


Having been reserved all through my childhood and living with people from my culture, I experienced cultural dissonance when I joined the university. Tianhong (2004) says that the experience of other peoples’ beliefs and actions is likely to motivate new habitats in the environment to avoid them. Due to lack of understanding of my peers’ way of communication, I experienced confusion and a sense of conflict in me. The New comers in the new environment will avoid hearing ways of life that oppose what they believe (Lehman 1997). I declined to identify myself with the new complex culture and suffered dissonance. Through convergence and divergence, people who love their culture adjust their way of talking to others in order to identify with their culture (Tylor 2004). I tried to be divergent in order to identify with my own ethnic background.

Lehman (1997) argues that when human beings’ social standards are violated or differ from the way they are used to do things such as dressing and the goods they consume, they feel rejected by others from different cultures. I felt isolated since I never understood how to cope with the new way of dressing as well as eating habits of my colleagues. Through cultivation analysis i.e. using use of media to be integrated, people get assimilated faster than direct experience (Harry et al. 2012 p. 20). I started involving myself with the different media such as television and radio programmes so as to cope with my dissonance. This became my stepping stone since from then I started socializing with my peers slowly by slowly. Lack of socialization causes dissonance. This is a situation where all the people in the culturally complex environment fail to air their problems and a sense of confusion develops (Taylor 2004). I faced my problems alone, not knowing there may be other people with the same problems. After a slow socialization with colleagues and the new environment, things changes for the better and the feeling of dissonance disappeared slowly with time.

According to Lewis (2005), the issue of technology use determines culture and it causes cultural dissonance. For the first time, i witnessed the advanced technology in my new living environment. This included issues such as use different machines by people in their day to day lives as they do their daily activities. I experienced a cultural dissonance in that I was not capable of doing as my peers in the same level of education. According to Beverley (2004), cultural diversity can be a source of psychological disability to a new person in the environment. My experience was a psychological torture to me throughout my first year of schooling in the institution. The uncertainly reduction theory says that strangers must first decrease their uncertainty about one another when they meet in new environments. This helped me to think of my peers as people who didn’t know about the new technology so as to start with them and live harmoniously. This helped to reduce my psychological negative attitude about my new place of living (Lehman 1997).

Harry et al. (2012) says that every human being is capable of overcoming cultural dissonance through interaction with the environment he/ she is in. I started by learning the different cultures that surrounded me so as to identify with the people around. This involved bridging the gap of empathy among the different cultures that I interacted with. I underwent a thorough training of ethnic studies through interaction with my college mates. Active participation in activities done by people from other cultures can definitely close the gap between the different beliefs that people have from their cultures (Beverley 2004). I took place in music festivals that took place during in cultural days in college so as to be together with my peers.

Going through cultural dissonance can be a source of getting skills about life (Lehman 1997). After one year of trying to catch up with my new multicultural environment, I learnt many peoples’ way of life and also understood that interaction can break cultural differences. I also learnt that cultural dissonance should not be taken negatively. It is a normal condition of mind which a human being can recover from and live normally with people from all walks of life. Cultural diversities are a source of peoples diversified thinking mentalities Harry et al. (2012). A person who has undergone cultural dissonance will always reason in a broader perspective than somebody who has never gone through the same sort of a phenomenon.


In conclusion, a scenario with cultural diversity can result to an uncomfortable feeling of discord and conflict to people who are experiencing the situation for the first time. Lehman (1997) argues that different cultures have different values and beliefs that are unique and uncommon to other cultures. It becomes difficult for a new person in a certain cultural complex to identify and cope with people in the setting. Different way of dressing, eating habits, language and way of life in general bring about the condition of cultural dissonance (Lewis 2005). People should learn to interact with others, learn different cultures, and appreciate other peoples’ way of life in order to live smoothly.


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Harry, D., Hugh, L & Jill, P 2009, Educational Theories, Cultures and

Learning: A Critical Perspective, Routledge, Abingdon.

Heine, S.J. and D.R. Lehman 1997, Culture, dissonance and self-affirmation. Personality and

Social Psychological Bulletin, 23(4), 389-400.

Henry, J. 2006, Convergence Culture: Where Culture and New Media Collide, New York

University Press, New York.

Lewis, D 2005, The Intersection Of Filial And Cultural Dissonance: Intergenerational

Exchanges Among The Khamer Families in the United States, University Of Kentucky, US.

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Immigrant Teachers Coping With Cultural Differences in Toronto Schools, University Of

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