Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What is culture shock?

You may have seen our recent postings on the gap between what expats expectations and reality, or the one on how to survive repatriation back home. You may even have seen the post Stephanie Katz wrote on underestimating culture shock. But what, exactly, is culture shock?
Creative commons: Bonde de Santa Teresa

There are four stages to culture shock that expats should be aware of going through; the honeymoon phase, the negotiation stage, the adjustment phase and the mastery phase.

Honeymoon Phase: When the world is seen through rose tinted glasses, the new country is fascinating and there are many new, positive discoveries to be made.

Negotiation Phase: How long this phase takes to kick in depends on the individual, but for many it is around the three-month mark. Stark and unfavourable differences between “home” and “host” countries develop and a sense of isolation occurs.

Adjustment Phase: The host country starts to feel less hostile, and the expat begins to be able to “predict” the outcomes of situations that may have previously felt strange and unfamiliar. The culture begins to make sense and negative situations have less of an emotional impact.

Mastery Phase: The newbie is comfortable to participate and be proactive in the local community and has started to comfortably combine their new and old cultures.

Does this match up with your experience of culture shock? Do you have any tips for getting accustomed to the local community? Leave a comment below, or message us on Twitter.

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  1. I am in my 9th year as an "expat" ...I recognise all of the above having either been through it, watched others go through it, or been with them go through it... and often offered an ear, a shoulder..., cup of tea or something stronger along the way:-) I am an mother , artist, wife, taxi-driver, mentor, creator, have been a lecturer, worked in theatre... you can choose the order you think that list should go in! My shed with the chandelier (non permanent structure :-) ) has become a place for me and others to reflect on this...thanks for raising the subject.

    1. Thank-you for your reply Tracy, culture shock is indeed something that the majority of expats have to face to some degree. It’s excellent that you have a support network that you feel comfortable chatting about it with.


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