Stages Of Culture Shock And The Mystery Of Acculturation

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December 31, 1969

Whether you are volunteering, traveling, or studying abroad for any length of time, you will most likely encounter culture shock at some point.  Here is a look at what you will be feeling during each of the stages.

Excitement/Honeymoon Phase:

You have just arrived and are ready for adventure.  Everything is new and exciting, and you wish you had an eternity to live and learn in your new environment.  Small differences in customs seem insignificant and you can see no potential problems.Courtesy of K. Rayker

Withdrawal/Frustration Phase: 

You have had some time to consider differences in culture and begin to criticize the customs and the people in your host country.  You begin to allow small problems to control your overall experience and disassociate yourself from your new surroundings. 

Adjustment Phase: 

You begin to understand the culture and find more similarities between yourself and the people of your host country.  You become less isolated and find ways to enjoy yourself again and look forward to new experiences.

Enthusiasm/Acculturation Phase: 

You are enjoying the culture and can see customs which you prefer to your own from home and you begin to adopt some aspects of your new culture.  You begin to see yourself living comfortably in your host country in the future and function well, looking forward to more exciting experiences. 

While experiencing culture shock, if you are in a large group it is important to remember that every individual is different in how they experience it, but most importantly, remember that everyone else is experiencing it also.  You are not alone! Although culture shock is eminent, remember the famous words of James Michener: If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.  Do not give up! You will achieve acculturation and overall happiness with your experience.

Interesting way to know if you have achieved acculturation while abroad: You dream and/or talk in your sleep in the local language. 

You’re Home….Now What?

Struggling after returning home?  An additional shock you may encounter is reentry shock.  After spending significant time abroad, returning home can be difficult.  Adjusting back to your old customs can seem tedious after your exciting time away.  Although it is important to remember what you acquired abroad, it is equally important to remember why you loved your life before and find equilibrium between the two after you return. 

Friends And Family Seem Uninterested?

Your experience was a significant part of your life, and you can’t wait to share it.  But you may find that others are not always as excited to listen.  Keep in mind that it is hard for those who have not had a similar experience to understand the type of experience you had and how it changed you personally.  It is not that they are disinterested, but more so a facet of not being able to understand you.  A good way to help your friends and family understand your experience is to use anecdotes that make it seem real, including specific places, people, and feelings you encountered.  It is equally important to keep in touch with people you met while you were abroad or find others who have had similar experiences because you have a mutual understanding and can provide support for each other when you are nostalgic and readjusting.

Article Categories: AcculturationCulture ShockGeneral TravelOn Your Travels