Culture Shock: The long and winding road - Part 2

The stages of Culture Shock

› The honeymoon stage

As in any new experience, there's a feeling of euphoria, you know, seeing everything through rose-coloured glasses. When you first arrive to a new country and you're in awe of the differences you see and experience. Everything is wonderful, cute, quaint and charming.

Let’s face it, how many times did you hear yourself say, "awh how cute" when you arrived in your new country? I know I did, too many times to admit. You feel excited, stimulated and thrilled.

During this stage, you still feel close to everything familiar back home. It’s only a phone call away or six hour plane journey away. It’s almost like a feeling of not belonging in your new country or your home country, you are still attached back home.

› The distress stage

Everything you're experiencing no longer feels new; in fact, it's starting to feel like a ball and chain that's preventing you from experiencing things.

Everything is an uphill battle. You feel confused, alone and realize that the familiar support systems that you’re used to having are not easily accessible. You start to encounter daily struggles like grocery shopping; it’s almost a big to-do on your list. You are not able to make yourself understood or understand others.

A simple phone call to a plumber turns out to give you a migraine, which makes your next call to your home doctor to ask for medication to treat the migraine.

Be careful because there might be difficulty in explaining the situation to the assistant. So you’re back where you started.

› The adjustment stage

Believe it or not, things start to "appear" to look up. But you also have to approach this stage carefully; as you are adjusting you will be develop coping strategies.

These strategies could go either way, you could retract inward and isolate yourself and become withdrawn, or you could start to embrace your new culture.

This is a very crucial point during the whole process. You start to see things as being doable. Compromising is the key word as you experience this stage. You start to rebel and refuse to accept the differences you encounter. You're angry, frustrated and even feel hostile to those around you. You start to idealise life "back home" and compare your current culture to what is you were so used to.

You will use the phrase, "that’s not the way WE do it back home" (emphasis on the WE). You will compare everything and start to think of your new culture as inferior.

You start to dislike everything from the food - yes, let’s face it, food is an important issue - the language, customs and just about everything else.

Don’t worry you’re not becoming anti-social, you are adjusting. The lifestyle of the people, habits and / or rituals may seem annoying or disturbing. During any adjustment period can cause you to look back and wonder why you made the decision and then you start to question everything you do.

› The acceptance stage

I like to think of it as the emergence stage when you start to rise above the clouds and finally begin to feel like yourself again. You start to accept the differences and feel like you can begin to live with them. You feel more confident and better able to cope with any problems that may arise.

You no longer feel isolated. You’re able to look at the world around you and appreciate where you are and start to accept the new country, its people and the food and the daily rituals. You see your new country as "survivable." You will begin to find the humour in the everyday oddities.

› The adaptation stage

Congratulations you reached the adaptation stage! You’re almost feeling like yourself again. You embrace the new culture and see everything in a new light. You feel comfortable, confident, and able to make decisions without second-guessing yourself. You appreciate both the differences and similarities of your new culture.

You start to feel at home, for the most part..

Previous in the series
 Culture Shock: The long & winding road - Part 1

Next in the series
 Culture Shock: The long & winding road - Part 3

Maria Habets


Maria Habets

Maria is a Communications Consultant//Life Coach. She has a Master's degree in Psychology and International Business from New York University and Columbia University in New York. After relocating from the...

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