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The Stages of Culture Shock

'Culture shock' is used to describe the emotional rollercoaster that someone experiences when living in a new country. Anyone that has worked and lived in a foreign country will experience culture shock of some sort.

Culture shock affects anyone from business personnel and their families, to EFL teachers to sports stars. Recognising culture shock is an important way of being able to deal with it. Dealing with it helps minimise the risk of becoming disillusioned with a new country and the possibility of deciding that a quick return 'home' is the only solution.

Experts agree that culture shock has stages and all agree that once people get beyond the initial and most difficult stages, life in a new country becomes a lot better.

Outlined below is an example of the stages people go through with culture shock:

Stage 1 - Excitement

The individual experiences a holiday or 'honeymoon' period with their new surroundings.

They:
. Feel very positive about the culture 
. Are overwhelmed with impressions
. Find the new culture exotic and are fascinated
. Are passive, meaning they have little experience of the culture

Stage 2 - Withdrawal

The individual now has some more face to face experience of the culture and starts to find things different, strange and frustrating.

They:
. Find the behaviour of the people unusual and unpredictable
. Begin to dislike the culture and react negatively to the behaviour 
. Feel anxious
. Start to withdraw
. Begin to criticize, mock or show animosity to the people

Stage 3 - Adjustment

The individual now has a routine, feels more settled and is more confident in dealing with the new culture.

They:
. Understand and accept the behaviour of the people
. Feel less isolated 
. Regains their sense of humour

Stage 4 - Enthusiasm

The individual now feels 'at home'.

They:
. Enjoy being in the culture
. Functions well in the culture
. Prefer certain cultural traits of the new culture rather than their own 
. Adopt certain behaviours from the new culture


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