Culture shock is a very real experience for many people who move to another country. Anyone who has lived or studied or even traveled extensively to another country has experienced and experienced a certain level of culture shock.  At the time, it may seem more like a sense of nostalgia, but what most people who haven’t undergone any kind of adaptation program are the stages they go through in adjusting to a new language, country, and culture.

Culture shock

Understanding what culture shock is and how it occurs will help you identify it more easily and make your international move a little easier. Culture shock is defined as disorientation experienced when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life.

When you move to a new country, everything is unknown; climate, landscape, language, food, clothing, social roles, values, customs and communication , basically everything you are used to is no longer in place.

You’ll find that the day unfolds differently, that business is conducted in a way that can be difficult to understand, and that stores open and close at times you could never predict. Its patterns are quirky, the smells, sounds, and tastes are unusual, and you can’t communicate how you’d like to communicate with the locals, not even to buy a loaf of bread.  This is a culture shock, and like any form of shock, there is a definite and almost certain reaction .

Signs that you have culture shock

Next we are going to put you some of the symptoms or signs that you can have when you are suffering a culture shock.

    • Feelings of sadness and loneliness
    • Excessive concern for your health
    • Headaches, aches, and allergies
    • Insomnia or sleeping too much
    • You idealize your own culture
    • You try too hard to adapt by obsessing over the new culture.
    • The smallest problems seem overwhelming
    • You feel shy or insecure
    • You obsess over cleanliness
    • An overwhelming sense of nostalgia
    • You feel lost or confused
  • You question your decision to have moved there

The honeymoon stage

Like any new experience, there is a sense of euphoria when you first arrive in a new country and are amazed at the differences you see and experience. You feel excited, stimulated and enriched.  During this stage, you still feel close to everything familiar at home.

The relief stage

Everything that you are experiencing no longer feels new … In fact, you start to feel like a wall preventing you from experiencing things. You feel confused, lonely, and realize that familiar support systems are not easily accessible.

Reintegration stage

During this stage, you begin to refuse to accept the differences that you encounter. You are angry, frustrated, and even hostile to those around you. You begin to idealize life “at home” and to compare your current culture with the one you are familiar with. You don’t like the culture, the language and the food . You reject it as inferior. You can even develop some prejudices towards the new culture. Don’t worry, this is normal; you are adjusting.

Autonomy stage

This is the first stage of acceptance.  It’s the emergency stage when you start to rise above the clouds and finally start to feel like yourself again. You start to accept differences and feel like you can start living with them. You feel more confident and better prepared to deal with any problems that may arise. You no longer feel isolated and can instead look at the world around you and appreciate where you are.

Independence stage

You are yourself again! You accept the new culture and see everything in a new but realistic light. You feel comfortable, confident and able to make decisions based on your preferences. You no longer feel lonely and isolated. Appreciate the differences and similarities in your new culture. You start to feel at home.

How to help yourself

There are several things you can do to help you through the stages of culture shock. First, fight the urge to isolate yourself and instead join a group of people who have the same interests, try out for a sports team, volunteer, or take a language class . Meeting new people and forcing yourself to be part of the community will help you in the reintegration stage.

In addition, it is important when you settle in your new home country to ensure that your home space feels good and comfortable. Settling in a new home is the same in a foreign country as it is in your own country. Take the time you need to feel good in your own space.

Get out, walk around your new neighborhood, be seen, smile, visit the local coffee shop, bookstores, or shop at the market. Soon they will begin to know who you are … There is nothing better than a nice neighbor who says good morning to you.

You can also be a tourist in your new city. Sign up for the excursions they do in your town, there you will also meet new people.

In addition, you will get to know your city, its streets, its history and its culture. It is possible that when you understand better where you are and why they have the culture that they have, you will accept it willingly. You don’t have to give up your beliefs or your lifestyle, but it will be much less difficult for you to adapt to the society you find yourself in now.

Little by little you will begin to have more autonomy and soon and almost without realizing it, you will feel your own independence in that place that at first you felt as strange, but that after going through the stages mentioned above, everything becomes more known, more familiar and much more comfortable. If you are now in an uncomfortable stage of adaptation and feel that culture shock does not accept it, soon everything will pass. But if, after a while you still feel bad in that place, it is because perhaps that place is not your place and it is better that you move back to your home or look for another destination that suits you better. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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