When you move to a new country, you may feel like your world has been turned upside down, or it’s natural to feel excited, nervous, and eager all at the same time. You may struggle with the language, be shocked by their manners or customs, and feel like nothing makes sense. In fact, it’s likely that everything you see and experience feels very foreign to you. These feelings are perfectly natural when transitioning to life in a new country. Culture shock can affect anyone who moves to a new place for work or school, even if it’s somewhere as similar as another English-speaking country. It is a normal reaction to an unfamiliar environment and can be an exciting time filled with opportunities for growth and personal development. Cultural adaptation is the process of learning about new cultures and adapting your own cultural habits so that they fit within these new environments. Read on to learn more about the 5 stages of cultural adaptation when moving abroad.
Stage 1: The Honeymoon Phase
When moving abroad, people often experience a honeymoon phase where they are so excited and eager to experience their new surroundings that they barely notice any cultural differences at all. During this phase, you’re likely to experience a flood of emotions. You may feel uneasy or excited, you may be overwhelmed by new cultural experiences, or you may feel like nothing is new or different. You may feel like you’re dreaming or that the whole experience is surreal like you’re in a parallel universe. During this phase, you may be so busy exploring your new environment that you don’t have time to be worried or stressed about cultural differences. You may not even realize you’re experiencing them. During this phase, you may find that you have a lot of questions about the new culture. You may have lots of misunderstandings with locals and feel frustrated when people don’t understand what you’re asking for or asking them to do.
Stage 2: The Culture Shocks
As you start to settle into a new place, you’ll likely experience some culture shocks. These are sudden realizations that they do things differently in the new culture. During this phase, you may feel offended when you are treated rudely or unkindly by locals. You may be shocked by how differently people treat children or elderly people. You may even feel offended when offered help (as this is considered rude in some cultures), or you may be shocked to find out something is not available, permitted, or legal in the new culture. During this phase, you are likely to have an identity crisis. You may wonder who you are without the familiar aspects of your old culture, or you may wonder who you are now that you have adopted new cultural practices.
Stage 3: The Identity Crisis
During the identity crisis phase, you may struggle to come to terms with the loss of your old identity and the lack of a new, consistent cultural identity. You may feel like you don’t fit in anywhere or that you don’t know who you are. During this phase, you may find yourself searching for things in the new culture that are somehow familiar. You may also look for things that are similar to the old culture. You may try to combine these two things together and appear to others as if you’re trying to fit into two cultures at the same time. During this phase, you may experience a loss of confidence and a feeling of being less capable than you were when you arrived in the new culture. You may feel like you’re struggling to catch up or that you are behind others in your field.
Stage 4: Reinvention
During the reinvention phase, you may start to see the world with fresh eyes and realize that nothing is as it seems. You may start to see cultural differences as opportunities for growth, not as problems to be solved. During this phase, you may realize that your culture is also not perfect. You may decide that you want to keep some aspects of your old culture and discard others. You may realize that you have the power to reinvent yourself. You may also realize that you want to become a better person, and you may want to start new behaviors or change your values and beliefs.
Stage 5: Cultural Adaption
As you settle into and fully experience the new culture, you will naturally become culturally adapted to the environment. During this phase, you will start to feel at home in the new culture. You will feel like you belong and like you have a place in the new culture. During this phase, you will have learned about the differences and similarities between your old culture and the new culture, and you will have come to terms with your decision to remain in a new culture or return to the old culture. You will have come to a place where you have accepted both cultures and know where you fit within them.
Tips to Overcome Cultural Shock
– Stay positive and optimistic. Having a positive attitude will help you overcome cultural shock much more quickly. Remember that this is a temporary situation and that you will eventually adapt to the new culture.
– Be patient with yourself. Cultural shock is a normal reaction to an unfamiliar environment. It doesn’t mean you aren’t smart or capable; it simply means that you are being challenged.
– Be open-minded. Remember that most cultures are not better or worse than your own. They are just different. Give yourself time to learn about the new culture and accept its differences.
– Ask questions. You can’t learn about a new culture if you don’t ask questions. Ask for clarification when you are confused about something. Ask people to explain their culture to you.
– Stay active. Stay physically and mentally active, and make sure you are getting enough sleep.
– Avoid comparing your culture to others.
– Allow yourself time to adjust to the new culture.
– Take care of yourself.
When you’re moving to a new country, it can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s important to be aware of the different stages of cultural adaptation. It can take up to two years for you to fully settle into your new life. Remember not to rush the process and to take your time getting used to everything. If you want to successfully settle into your new surroundings, you’ll want to make sure you go through all five stages of cultural adaptation.