The Stages of Culture Shock

Going through the stages of culture shock is similar to the stages of grief in that anyone who experiences them will likely experience every stage at least once, they will likely experience the stages multiple times, and perhaps in no particular order. In order to overcome culture shock, you must know the stages of culture shock. 


Honeymoon Stage

This stage of culture shock is usually the first that you will experience. The length of the honeymoon stage will differ from person to person and could be the only stage you experience depending on how similar the new culture is to your own and how long you are exposed to the culture. During this stage you look at the culture and new environment with eyes of wonderment. You quickly identify the similarities between the new culture and your own. During this stage the locals and local way of life are seen as pleasant, and annoyances back from home such as traffic may even be seen as endearing in the new culture. Unfortunately, every honeymoon must end. This may take days, weeks, or months.

Canva Design DAFCY25-pKMNegotiation Stage

Once the honeymoon has ended, you will enter the negotiation stage. People tend to enter this stage at about the 3-month mark. In stark contrast to the honeymoon stage, this stage is characterized by negative feelings. During this stage you are seeing everything different and irritating about the new culture. You may feel disdain, bewilderment, confusion, and perhaps anxiety. During this stage you will be more on edge and more likely to go off at the slightest inconvenience. This is also when you will likely start becoming homesick and missing family, your home, and your own culture. You might even experience some temporary negative effects on your health as a result of this stage.

Canva Design DAFCafA5vuYAdjustment Stage

After 3-6 months of being in the Negotiation Stage, you will arrive at the Adjustment Stage. At this stage you are getting into the rhythm of your new life, surroundings, and culture around you and have become more accepting of them. You are moving past the negative feelings about the differences between your old life and new life. You have likely picked up a good bit of the local language and may have made some friends due to having been in the location for between 6 and 12 months. 

Canva Design DAFCaVMIjYQAdaptation Stage

After your adjustment period, you will reach the Adaptation Stage. At this stage you have made the necessary adjustments to your lifestyle to integrate yourself into the new culture and environment. You are now at ease in your new home and no longer deal with the frustration of trying to adjust to something new. You are comfortable with your new life and do not feel lonely because you have your daily activities and new friends to keep you busy. The Adaptation Stage gets you as close to the Honeymoon Stage as you can get but will never reach that level of excitement. Thankfully, you will feel a sense of belonging and home once you have reached the Adaptation Stage.

Canva Design DAFCakjYG64Re-entry Shock

By the name of this section, you can see that this is not necessarily a stage of culture shock that all people will experience. This type of culture shock is experienced by those who re-enter their home culture. As strange as it may seem, you can experience culture shock when returning to your home country. This is called re-entry shock or reverse culture shock. You may experience it upon returning to your home country after an extended period of time abroad. There are two aspects to this stage. The first is that you may feel that your family, friends, and city have continued life without you and have changed in the process. The second aspect of re-entry shock is realizing that the new customs and traditions that you have learned are not transferable to your home country’s culture. The Re-entry Phase will necessitate passing through the Adjustment and Adaptation Stages into your own culture!

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