Culture Shock Questions for ESL Students

Instructor: Jesse Richter

Jesse holds two masters, a doctorate and has 15 years of academic experience in areas of education, linguistics, business and science across five continents.

This lesson briefly introduces the concept of culture shock and provides discussion questions for ESL students. Relevant culture shock topics and tips for classroom use are also offered.

What Is Culture Shock?

Culture shock describes a feeling or sense of disorientation when a person experiences customs, systems and other ways of life from an unfamiliar culture. Culture shock is common for people who travel to different regions or otherwise interact with individuals who are from different cultures.

In addition to language itself, fixed expressions can cause culture shock.

Culture Shock Discussion Questions

Here are common culture shock topics and questions that may be implemented in classroom discussions. You might start by asking the question: what exactly is culture shock? Have students engage in a brainstorming session as a basis for launching further discussion.


  • How do you feel about learning English languages?
  • What are some challenging aspects of adjusting to a new language environment?
  • What are the pros and cons of living in a multilingual society?


  • How are American customs similar or different from customs of your home culture?
  • What are some customs you particularly like or dislike and why?
  • What are some customs from your home culture that you would like to share with people in America?


  • What do you know about the American 9/11 events?
  • How do you think American historical events affect our global community?
  • What sorts of things have you learned in school about the United States?


  • How do you feel about the prices of clothing in the United States?
  • Do you feel pressure to change your dress style in order to fit in with a different culture?
  • What was your first clothes shopping experience like?


  • How do you feel about American politics?
  • How is the American government system similar or different from your home government?
  • If you had the opportunity to work in American government, what would you do to improve our society?


  • What do you think about how Americans use technology?
  • How are technologies used similarly or differently from what you see in your home country?
  • What are some challenges you have experienced while using American style technologies?


  • What is different about American transportation systems compared to transportation in your home culture?
  • What ideas do you have that might make American transportation more efficient and affordable?
  • Tell me about your experience traveling to the United States.

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