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Culture Shock

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culture shockWelcome to our free lesson Culture Shock to give you practise for the IB English B, IELTS and CAE exams. This is just one of the many lessons available to reinforce your learning so you feel confident when the IB English Language B, IELTS and CAE exam day arrives. Our lessons are centred around five prescribed themes; identities, experiences, human ingenuity, social organization and sharing the planet. These themes are featured in the reading, writing, speaking and listening parts of the exam.

Culture Shock: Listening Practice

listeningIn this lesson, we will practice mainly our listening skills by learning about culture shock.

Exercise 1Exercise 2Exercise 3Word List

Five students from five different continents tell us how they adapted to a brand new culture when they first came to study abroad.

Click here to view the transcript

Christy: Hi I’m Christy I’m from New York and I did an exchange here in the UK.

Val: My name is Val. I’m from Bulgaria and I studied in Denver Colorado.

Stephanie: I’m Stephanie from Hong Kong and I studied in Newcastle University.

Arya: Hi I’m Arya I’m from Australia and I studied in Fairfax Virginia.

Emmanuel: My name is Emmanuel. I’m from Nigeria and I study in London.

Stephanie: It was really exciting to see the architecture the culture and the people.

Val: When I went there everybody was really good with me and helped me with everything.

Emmanuel:  I guess we also used to watching like English movies when we were back in Nigeria so actually being here and seeing it for you know in real we were very excited.

Arya: As you go though it starts to it starts to become a little bit more daunting.

Christy: I started to miss things that I was used to having around me all the time. I miss my friends and my family.

Emmanuel: I also used to see them all the time you know now though you were so far away it was was quite hard.

Stephanie:  I felt homesick and then I felt sad and really want to go back to home.

Christy:  I’d never been away from my parents from longer than a couple of weeks at a time and that was really hard.

Val: Some people warned me about this phase the culture shock.

Stephanie: Culture shock

Arya: Culture shock.

Christy: The infamous culture shock.

Arya: I think, one of the biggest differences was just the phrases they used.

Emmanuel: The accent is very difficult to to kind of understand.

Stephanie:  Mate

Val: Hit the town.

Christy: Everything was always brilliant, seriously no it’s not.

Stephanie: Knackered.

Christy: It swings and roundabouts.

Arya: Seriously what does that mean.

Christy: I was really overwhelmed

Val: I felt overwhelmed with everything really.

Emmanuel: I guess just the way of life you know he was very very busy and …

Christy: People knew university new surroundings.

Arya: It was quite hard to get around at first.

Emmanuel: You had cabs, you had trains, you had buses.

Arya: And you have to just work out you know which one to take which one not to take.

Christy: And believe it or not the food is different.

Emmanuel: I tend to really crave like you know Nigerian food.

Stephanie: I really miss Chinese food.

Val: I really miss my mom’s cooking and my grandmother’s as well.

Emmanuel: My cooking them but to be honest it’s terrible.

Christy: So that’s when I realized I needed to learn how to cook.

Arya: So, I ended up cooking a lot at home but I think the best part of that was I started to bond with my flatmates a lot more.

Emmanuel:  So, um yeah I’m learning.

Arya: When I was feeling a bit homesick someone suggested that maybe I speak to the welfare advisors.

Stephanie: And they reassure me that I wasn’t the only one who felt overwhelmed.

Arya: And one of the things they suggested was you know try and decorate my room to make it feel a little bit more homely.

Christy: After a while, I started to get more comfortable here.

Stephanie: I joined badminton societies and I really met lots of English people there and I felt like my English got improved.

Val: I started talking to people a lot and feel more confident in myself and my language.

Christy: Everything started to feel a little bit more normal I made more friends I started going out more socializing a little bit.

Arya: That was a big transition for me it made me feel you know a lot more at home.

Val: I managed to adjust to the new culture.

Stephanie: And I just adjusted to the weather the food and the language.

Emmanuel: And I ended up making so many friends you know both international and both you know people from here.

Arya: To be honest it was the best decision I’ve ever made even though there were some challenges.

Christy: I learned a lot inside the classroom and about myself.

Emmanuel: It is really transformed my life completely and I literally feel like this is home for me now.

You will hear a reporter who has just arrived in Beijing after living in Tokyo for two years. It results in him feeling some culture shock.

A. Identify true statements

1-4 According to the reporter, which FOUR of the following statements are true?

A. Crossing a road is more difficult in Japan than in China.

B. In Japan, pedestrians pay little attention to traffic signals when crossing the road.

C. Although he admires many aspects of Japanese culture, he never felt that he was accepted in Japan.

D. Emotions are expressed more openly in China than in Japan.

E. When he was trying to buy a subway ticket in China, the local people were very helpful.

F. He speaks Chinese fluently, so he is confident about his new position in China.

G. He is excited to have the opportunity to learn about and work in another culture.

B. Matching the statements with their sources.

To which country do the following words apply? Choose either “China” or “Japan” next to each statement.

5. “Everyone seems to be in a constant race or scramble to get on top.”

6. “Everyone tries to get ahead of the next guy.”

7. “…… civil and polite”

8. “The sheer scale of the place is both exciting and frightening.”

9. “……their obsession with order and detail”

C. Multiple Choice

Choose the correct statement:

10. The reporter will miss living in Japan


Click here to view the transcript

Instructions: This is the IB English B listening practice test one text B. The start and end of the audio text will be indicated by this sound. Text B you now have four minutes to read the questions. Text B you are going to listen to a reporter who has just arrived in Beijing after living in Tokyo for two years.

Reporter: It’s truly remarkable that two countries China and Japan so close to each other who share a history, a written language and a gene pool can be so utterly different. They’re poles apart the mentalities seem to be the complete antithesis of each other. The Japanese polite ordered and obsessed with process and detail. The Chinese loud energetic opinionated everyone seems to be in a constant race or scramble to get on top. It’s a refreshing change from the reserved nature of the Japanese and it’s expressed fullest in the most basic things. Take the traffic. In Japan, there’s a strict etiquette line up and never cross a road before the green signal. On the occasion, I did jaywalking Tokyo people would go into a complete panic as if I’d committed a murder. Horns were never heard and you’d always let other cars in front of you when driving. All for the common good.

But in China traffic is life-threatening and in my first few days still in Japanese mode, I was almost knocked over several times. In China, cars won’t stop for you. Horns are constant. Rules are broken as everyone tries to get ahead of the next guy. There is a rawness here that’s just not present in Japan and I’ve seen more emotion and expression anger frustration laughter and happiness than I did in Japan.

The spoken word China seems more direct aggressive almost compared with Japanese. Japanese is designed much more than Chinese to hide intentions meanings and avoid confrontations the verb and subject only revealed at the end of a sentence or a statement.

I do get the sense of the Chinese are much more open than the Japanese. I’m a great admirer of how civil and polite the Japanese are it made living easy convenience but you also knew that ultimately you’d never be allowed in you would always remain a foreigner a gaijin.


We’re in China with its much more diverse population in history of immigration. I get a sense that it will be easier to be let in and to get to know the people. And arriving in a country with little language and no orientation is a good test of that as you are helpless and I’ve been surprised at the subway when fumbling to work out how to get a ticket out of the dispenser people have offered to pay for me and guided me to the right platform.


No doubt there is much more energy in China. The pace is faster and the dynamics have played much clearer to see and the sheer scale of the place is both frightening and exciting. It’s one of the biggest stories in the world and its reach is growing it’s a great position for a reporter to be. But I will also miss the exquisiteness of Japanese culture and their obsession with order and detail.

Instructions: You now have two minutes before you hear Text B for a second and final time.

Recording repeated.

Instructions: You now have two minutes 30 seconds to finish answering the questions you.

An idiom is a common word or common phrase culturally understood – meaning that what is said differs from what is actually meant. Brits are really well known for this and the logic behind the majority of sayings are unknown but really useful to understand.

a penny for your thoughtsA way of asking someone to share their thoughts with you. 

back to the drawing boardUsed to indicate that an idea, scheme or proposal has been unsuccessful and that a new one should be devised.

beat around the bushA typical British saying meaning you’re purposely avoiding the topic in a subject, not speaking directly about the issue. 

hit the sack The sack would be your bed – and you hitting it would be you going to bed.  

see eye to eyeWhen two or more people agree on something. You see eye to eye because you have the same views. 

your guess is as good as mineMeaning you basically have no idea. You simply know as much as the next person. 

You can find more common idioms based on culture here.

Here are the keywords and phrases covered in this lesson:

  • antithesis
  • architecture
  • confrontations
  • culture shock
  • dynamics
  • energetic
  • exchange
  • frustration
  • homesick
  • jaywalking
  • obsession
  • societies
  • socializing
  • strict etiquette
  • surroundings
  • overwhelmed
  • welfare advisors

Answers for Exercise 2
1-4. C, D, E, G
5. China 6. China 7. Japan 8. China 9. Japan
10. B

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Here you will find exercises to practice for the different sections of the IB English B examination for either the Standard (SL) or Higher Level (HL) papers.
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Here are some grammar exercise which give you the practice to be confident in communicating in English at this advanced level.

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