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Culture Shock?

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Therese Waldorf

Living in Guatemala, from Argentina

"Moving to such a vast and lively city abroad scared me a little, but this site helped my acclimatisation as an expat in "Guate" a lot. "

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Living in Guatemala, from Australia

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Culture Shock

The term culture shock is often used flippantly when talking about cultural differences and how we deal with them. It is often overlooked that it is more than the source of funny anecdotes arising from cultural peculiarities or misunderstandings. Learn all about this phenomenon on InterNations.

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 adjust to another culture than others. In its milder forms, it can even go by virtually unnoticed. As an expat, however, you are unlikely to escape it completely. Its effects 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 this 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 its causes and effects, thus offering a perfect introduction to the topic. Reading about the subsequent stages may help you accept any adjustment issues you might have when moving abroad for what they are: 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. Expats who return home after a long period of living in another country may also find themselves confronted with it. 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 one’s home country to re-create the culture shock experience for returning expats. While there is little you can do to completely avoid it, there are certain techniques which will help you minimize its effects. 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 get over any readjustment issues. You can find more useful tips in our article on “Reverse Culture Shock”.