Culture Lag and Culture Shock

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The word culture lag emerged from the notion that it takes a longer time for culture to adopt changes brought on by technological advances. There are social challenges and issues facing individuals in their day-to-day lives due to technological lag. Exposure to a foreign world or an alien culture, on the other hand, may contribute to culture shock. Cultural shock is a theory that states that if people are introduced without proper orientation to a new culture, traditions, and new climate, they will have a feeling of uncertainty and confusion (Goldstein & Keller, 2015). To solve this unavoidable phenomenon, they need to realize their culture shock. The stages of culture shock include honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance. When people travels to new places, they usually become infatuated with food, language, and people within the surrounding which mark the honeymoon stage of culture shock. Then at the frustration stage, the individual struggles to understand the signs, gestures, language and other things in the new environment. The stage might be characterized with misunderstanding and requires the person to learner faster. After frustrations, the person needs to adjust depending on the requirements of the new environment and finally accept the changes after completely understanding them. Factors such as personality, mental health, education level might influence the pace at which a person moves through the stages of culture shock (Anderson, 2015). This paper will discuss the concepts of culture lag and culture shock when they were developed and their use and impact in the society.

In 1922, William F. Ogburn coined the term culture lag suggesting that a period of maladjustment happens at a time when the non-material culture struggles to catch up with new material conditions (Howaldt, Kopp & Schwarz, 2015). On the other hand, the term culture shock describing a state of anxiety and frustration due to immersion in a different culture was first to mention in the literature by anthropologist Kalervo Oberg in 1960. Oberg based his idea on the fact that persons judge visual aspects are applying their beliefs and values which are responsible for the anxiety in a new environment (Goldstein & Keller, 2015).

Ogburn concept of culture lag and culture shock by Oberg are meant to orientate individuals on how to respond to new changes in the society. Culture lag is concerned with how the society can make use of new changes brought about by the technological innovations to improve their lives in all aspects. It gives us the guidelines on how we can balance non-material changes with material changes to solve social problems and conflicts. Culture shock also guides individuals, especially the one who wants to travel to foreign countries, on how to adapt to the new culture (Anderson, 2015).

Usually, people tend to visit new places for various reasons. The concept of culture shock has an impact on the society since it explained the steps that a person undergoes when is exposed to a new environment with different cultural practices. It, therefore, leads peaceful existences in a multicultural society. The concepts of culture lag by Ogburn also helps to explain the role of technological innovations towards solving social problems and conflicts. It, therefore, makes the society to appreciate the role of technology in the economic systems and other areas. For example, life has been transformed by technological innovations of things such as TV and mobile phones. A person can now watch and learn business using his or her mobile phone. But it is true that technological innovations also comes with some problems such as cyber bully, and we should not overstate it as the only solution to our social problems.


Anderson, J. (2015). Exploring the consequences of mobility: Reclaiming jet lag as the state of travel disorientation. Mobilities, 10(1), 1-16.

Goldstein, S. B., & Keller, S. R. (2015). US college students’ lay theories of culture shock. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 47, 187-194.

Howaldt, J., Kopp, R., & Schwarz, M. (2015). Social Innovations as Drivers of Social Change—Exploring Tarde’s Contribution to Social Innovation Theory Building. In New Frontiers in Social Innovation Research (pp. 29-51). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

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