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Culture Shock is the uncomfortable and often painful sensation caused by contact with culture for any length of time. The onset is usually sudden, and can affect anyone, even those who have been exposed to culture before. Risk factors include novels, theatre, cinema, all forms of music and even some comic books.
It is frequently confused with other culture-related injuries, such as the sore feeling from having been sitting in the same uncomfortable seat for several hours. While this can be caused by prolonged exposure to Hamlet or Wagner's operas, the onset is more gradual and it can also have non-cultural causes, such as economy class air travel. Culture shock by contrast is more sudden and is caused only by culture.
edit Safety Note
While any contact with culture of any form can produce a culture shock, High Culture is particularly dangerous, and it is recommended that only specially trained professionals handle it. Opera is considered extremely hazardous and non-professionals should only observe it from a safe distance, greater than 700ft (200m) and using purpose-made opera glasses.
In art galleries and museums all culture is kept behind safety barriers or painted lines on the floor (similar to those on train platforms). The public should stay behind those barriers and remain in view of the lifeguards.
All other culture should be handled with care, and only for short periods. Pop culture is usually safe since most of it is ephemeral and soon dissipates to nothing. The exceptions are the enduring works which you can find named by cultural experts in regular lists of "Top 100 Movies/Albums/Decades of All Time" and similar. You should use this expert advice to avoid such classics under all circumstances.
Caution is still required with pop culture because, unfortunately, there are some "instant classics". There is little that can be done to mitigate this danger, although one precaution is to avoid anything nominated for an award or on any end-of-year polls.
edit Recognising and avoiding Culture
Most jurisdictions have adopted the ISO 555 standard warning signs for culture, such as:
Unfortunately these are far from universally applied. It is suspected that some of the worst perpetrators of culture deliberately omit such warnings.
edit Health risks
Most people fully recover from their first one or two culture shocks, and after that need no further encouragement to avoid culture.