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Navigating Culture Shock

23 Nov 2021

Moving to a new country often goes with culture shock, which move through four phases: Honeymoon, Distress/ Frustration, Adjustment, and Acceptance/ Resolution. While everyone experiences these stages differently, understanding the process and knowing what to expect can help greatly in transitioning.

Honeymoon – this stage is overwhelmingly positive. Newly arrived expats are usually excited to explore their surroundings and discover the local culture. Everything is new, and life feels like one big adventure. There is a desire to learn the language and explore the culture, and if an obstacle arises, it’s not viewed through a negative lens.

Acceptance

Distress/ Frustration – the most challenging stage when culture shock starts to set in, and you will feel disappointment, depression, distress, and frustration. Even minor thing, like getting on the wrong train, can trigger a disproportionately negative response easily. With the majority of things to organize, there are ample opportunities for frustrations and difficulties to arise. A lack of local connections might see loneliness and feelings of isolation kick in. The stress caused by constantly being out of your familiar culture can build up like a pressure cooker.  

Frustration

Adjustment – expat gains more insights into how to get things done and develops a more comprehensive understanding of the lay of the land. They can better adjust their behavior and expectations to adapt to their new culture and feel more familiar and comfortable with their new environment. Although there will still be frustrations, life becomes more manageable, a lot easier, and less stressful.

Acceptance/ Resolution – the final stage sees the expat familiar with their new environment to be able to gather the resources needed to get things done and feel at ease. There is an understanding that cultural differences are just that – differences, not a matter of right and wrong.

Positive

If you find yourself struggling in the culture shock, it takes time to adjust. It can be helpful to focus on the positive and explore what works best for you to relieve stress. Keep being open-minded, and you’ll find that culture shock is a thing of the past. If you’re unsure whether your reactions are due to culture shock or suffering from depression or anxiety, seek local helpline, online counselor, or other expats to discuss your concerns.

If you would like assistance with shipping or relocation support, contact your local Asian Tigers office or reach out to us via our online contact form.

If you found this article interesting, you might also be interested in taking a look at Expat Life: Moving Abroad During COVID-19, Timing Your Move – Peak vs. Non-Peak Times, Common Packing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, and Top Tips for Surviving Hotel Quarantine.

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