Culture shock if you’re an international student

It’s common for international students to experience feelings of excitement and enthusiasm on arriving in New Zealand. Everything is new and exciting. However, once you’ve settled in a bit you may experience feelings of frustration, loneliness or uneasiness.

These feelings are a natural part of adapting to a new culture. This “culture shock” affects most international students in a new country.

Symptoms of culture shock

  • Lacking direction, not knowing what to do or how to do things in New Zealand. The way you lived or behaved before may not be accepted or considered normal here
  • Feeling isolated, frustrated, homesick, angry or hostile toward your new home
  • Being overly dependent on other international students
  • Doubting your decision to come to New Zealand

You may experience one or more of these symptoms, and different people will experience them with varying degrees of intensity.

Tips for managing culture shock

  • Prepare yourself to become independent
  • Keep busy and interact with others
  • Establish simple goals and evaluate your progress
  • Talk to someone who has been through the cultural adaptation process
  • Keep up your normal fitness and social routines

Things to remember about culture shock

  • It’s a normal part of the adaptation process
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, adapting will take time. Be patient
  • Be open-minded and try to remember that New Zealand is a different country to your own. People will behave in ways that may seem odd to you. Avoid making judgements
  • Focus on all the good things you’ve encountered from your experience of living in New Zealand

Once you begin to understand New Zealand culture, you won’t feel as lost and will begin to gain a sense of direction.

New to AUT?

Starting uni is exciting but it can also be a bit of a change from high school or the workplace. Don't worry; we're here to help. Find out how to get started at AUT, where to get support and how to make sure you’re settling into uni life and make the most of your time at AUT.


Contact us

For international student support while you’re studying at AUT contact the Student Hub. Our student advisors can help with:

  • Visa and immigration matters
  • Insurance
  • Accommodation
  • Life in New Zealand
  • Talking to faculties
  • Homesickness

Phone 0800 AUT UNI (0800 288 864)
or +64 9 921 9779

Opening hours

Contact us online

After hours phone +64 9 921 9900 (for emergencies)