Culture shock part 1: the four stages

young woman walking through airport with suitcase

Moving to a new country to live or study is an exhilarating and life-changing experience. But as the initial excitement fades, you might start to experience something known as ‘culture shock’.

If you're experiencing culture shock, it's important to remember you're not alone. A common phenomenon, culture shock is often experienced in four stages:

  • Honeymoon
  • Frustration
  • Adjustment
  • Acceptance.

Stage 1: The Honeymoon Stage

As the name suggests, the Honeymoon Stage of culture shock is as intense as it is satisfying. You'll become captivated by your new surroundings, the friends you make, and the new cultural experiences of exotic food and languages. In this stage you'll probably still feel and act like a tourist, taking pictures of everything and sending them back home to family and friends.

Yet just like in relationships, the Honeymoon Stage will eventually come to an end.

Stage 2: The Frustration Stage

Eventually, the difficulty of understanding new slang, and the general fatigue of trying to understand your new environment will leave you feeling frustrated. You might notice small inconveniences which normally wouldn't phase you, like running late, misplacing items or getting lost lead to you feeling unusually emotional.

In the Frustration Stage it's also normal to have strong feelings of homesickness and longing to return to family and friends back home. Feelings of confusion are also common and strong emotions and mood changes may take place. At times you'll feel calm, you might also frequently experience anxiety and low mood.

Stage 3: The Adjustment Stage

As you inevitably become more comfortable in your new surroundings, the feelings in the frustration stage will start to fade. Becoming familiar with your new environment will mean navigating around your new town or city easier, relationships with new friends will strengthen and deepen, and your grasp of the local lingo will improve drastically.

Keep in mind this stage may take longer to reach than you think, so be patient, take one step at a time and keep a learning attitude. Start by embracing your different place of origin and culture, and seeing it as something to be proud of. People will learn to appreciate what you bring and will be more open to include you in their country if you are happy with who you are.

Stage 4: The Acceptance Stage

The final step is acceptance. While 'acceptance' won't mean you understand your new culture inside and out, you'll still flourish in your new surroundings, while accepting they're different from your home.

This is when you can really start to 'lay down your roots' in your new country, and when you'll make the memories and relationships that will last for your lifetime.

If you're living in a new country and feel like 'acceptance' is still a long way off for you, read on to our article about how to manage culture shock, or book an appointment and talk to a Counsellor at Caladenia Clinic.

While nerve-wracking, moving to a new country to live or study is one of the most exciting life experiences you can undertake. Find out more about becoming an international Murdoch student.
Posted on:

10 Jan 2023

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