Culture shock is in fact a serious phenomenon and a long-winded process, and thus definitely a force to be reckoned with when moving abroad. Depending on personality and circumstances, some people might find it easier to deal with culture shock than others. In its milder forms, culture shock can even go by virtually unnoticed. As an expat, however, you are unlikely to escape culture shock completely. The effects of culture shocks can be severe, and in some cases they are even are responsible for expat assignments being terminated prematurely. Fortunately, it is possible to prepare yourself for the culture shock phenomenon in its various stages so that it doesn’t hit you unexpectedly.
Stages of Culture Shock
Oddly enough, people are often not aware of the roots of their troubles and thus fail to address them in an adequate manner. Most expats go through various stages of culture shock before they finally adapt to the way of life in their host country. Knowing what these stages are will help you recognize and deal with them appropriately. With the help of several case studies, our article “What is Culture Shock?” analyzes the causes and effects of culture shock, thus offering a perfect introduction to the topic. Reading about the subsequent stages of culture shock may help you accept culture shock for what it is: a completely natural and often unavoidable phenomenon that needs to be understood and addressed in order to be overcome.
Reverse Culture Shock
It may come as a surprise that culture shock doesn’t only affect those who are moving abroad. Also expats who return home after a long period of living in another country may find themselves confronted with symptoms of culture shock. This phenomenon is known as reverse culture shock. A certain nostalgia for the expat life style often combines with difficulties in re-adjusting to the way of life in your home country to re-create the culture shock experience for returning expats. While there is little you can do to avoid it, there are certain techniques which will help you minimize the effects of reverse culture shock. Trying to fit back into your old circle of friends isn’t always easy. It may take some time for them to accept that you have changed, and for you to accept that they have just got on with their lives. Getting in touch with some other “repatriates” who share your experience is a good way to fight the reverse culture shock blues. You can find more useful tips in our articles on “Reverse culture shock.