Switching your life from living in one country to another can be an adventurous experience. But the sudden change in culture, traditions, language and living habits can mentally disturb us. Feeling overwhelmed by the immediate change in lifestyle and culture is almost faced by every ex-pat, and it is widely known as Cultural shock.
Cultural shock can throw ex-pats off. The instantaneous change in lifestyle can create confusion and anxiety in some people. Certain people fail to identify it correctly and resort to isolation and mental distress.
If you’re an ex-pat and find yourself in a similar situation, then don’t worry. Cultural shock is a normal process and happens to everyone. Let’s look at the five stages of cultural shock to help you understand how it works.
1. The Honeymoon Phase
You just landed at the place, and everything seems so exciting and new. You are in awe. You look at all the possibilities; the new environment, the rich culture, the difference in food and people. You are happy and ecstatic and want to try out everything.
This phase lasts for a few days and even for weeks. You find yourself impressed by everything new about the culture, and everything seems to be going perfect.
2. Rejection Phase
After some time, you find these exciting impressions wearing off. The same cultural difference that seemed quirky and cute are now slowly becoming annoying and unacceptable. You start to negatively compare local customs with how things used to be back home. And how they were better.
You can’t figure out how to eat rice with your hands. Squatting down and using a bucket of water instead of a commode seems disgusting and confusing. You start becoming irritated by the simple things and start facing hostility with the culture and people of that place.
3. The Adjustment Phase
Things are now starting to make more sense. You are beginning to feel a bit more familiar with your surrounding environment. You are learning about the routes to different places from your home, and you can now travel more efficiently.
This stage starts kicking in after some weeks, or months. It depends on the person and what type of cultural shock they were exposed to. You develop a daily routine and know where to get your desired supplies, like a favourite brand of shampoo. Things are becoming more comfortable, and you even make some friends.
4. The Adaptation Phase
Things are now feeling more like home. You are starting to settle, and things feel more comfortable now. You have found yourself a community, friends, people who you work with, and you have overcome your language barrier.
Simple things like talking to strangers does not feel that strange anymore. You no longer compare this culture with your previous culture, and things seem to be going right for you. You now feel a strong sense of belonging.
5. The Re-entry Shock
You have completed your journey, and now you are visiting your native country, or you’re just visiting. Once you land back where you started from, you will experience a strange sense of isolation and emotional detachment. This is the re-entry phase.
Everything that once seemed normal now feels strange. You might even find criticizing your own culture. Your friends and family now feel different than how you remembered them. The new things you have adapted yourself to, don’t feel the same in your native country.
Cultural shock is a gradual process, and you will overcome it. Going through these five phases will help you identify where you stand at the moment, assessing your situation and knowing that some form of shock is standard will help you understand how cultural shock works. With time and adaptation, you will get a better hang of things.