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Culture Shock & Fellows - BY YOUR LOCAL RESEARCHER (Mannheim)

Yesterday I read an InterNations blog article about ho wto get along with the phenomenon culture shock. Depending on where you come from you might have experienced it more or less. The author Juanita Kwarteng recommends the 3-P strategy to get along with hard times: patience, persistence and positivity. If you‘re interested this fine article there‘s a link below. However, as a researching psychologist on this field Juanita‘s article inspired me to write a few sentences about the culture shock and its fellows.

The psychologic phenomenon of culture shock belongs to the work of S. Lygaard who mentioned it first of all in Protected content . Based on a range of two hundred interviews with Norwegian travellers he could describe their cultural adjustment as a U-curve with different stages. Lysgaard wrote the following about his findings: „... we observed that adjustment as a process over time seems to follow a U-shaped curve: adjustment is felt to be easy and successful to begin with; then follows a ’crisis’ in which one feels less well adjusted, somewhat lonely and unhappy; finally one begins to feel better adjusted again, becoming more integrated into the foreign community. Or, to put it differently, we suggested that adjustment as a process over time operates increasingly more intimate contact, however, makes itself felt before one is able to achieve such contact and for some time, therefore, one may feel ’lonely’ and maladjusted.“.

In another article two of the most cited American expatriate researchers, Steven Black and Mark Mendenhall Protected content , found the perfect words to describe what culture shock is and why it doesn‘t occur as a solo effect: „In the initial stage ("honeymoon stage"), individuals are fascinated by the new culture and are excited about all the new and interesting" sights and sounds."This initial cultural in fatuation is followed by a period of disillusionment and frustration ("disillusionment" or "culture shock stage") as the individual must seriously cope with living in the new culture on a day-to-day basis. The third stage ("adjustment stage") is characterized by gradual adaptation to the new culture and learning how to behave appropriately according to the cultural norms of the host country. The fourth stage ("mastery stage") is characterized by small incremental increases in the individual's ability to function effectively in the new culture.”

So, could you recognize your own experience in this? But not everybody perceives cultural adjustment in the same way. There are many influencing factors like preparation by intercultural training, knowledge about the country of destination, language skills, personality traits and personal skills, social life factors, cultural distance between country of origin and host country as well as job factors. Never the less I hope that you are feeling comfortable and you receive as much support as necessary from your friends, co-workers and familiy.

For research interested people:
In academic journals it is still a discussion if the U-curve should be retired or not. One of two reasons for this is W-curve which integrates the process of expatriation and repatriation. The other one is that the U-curve is hard to get for an empirical sgnificant evidence. But that does not mean the U-curve effect with its stages doesn‘t exist. The model is still popular to explain psychological effects to prepare people for their expatriate asignment or Protected content other educational situations or to write articles like this one.

I hope you like the article and maybe a it gives a better self-understanding for one or another person.

If you like to support the knowledge on the field of psychological exptriate research here is my own current research project: Protected content

To take part and make a doctoral researcher really happy (that‘s me) please fill my survey. It takes 30 minutes but every answer has the same value as gold to me:

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Thanks a lot for reading this long article. I‘m looking to comments :-)

P.S: Juanita's article:
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