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The following discusses culture shock.  Not everyone will experience culture shock; some may experience different levels of it.  However, this article may be helpful in recognising culture shock when it occurs.  Each phase may occur over a period of a month to three months.

The Four Phases of Culture Shock

When you're a tourist and spending your hard-earned money for fun and adventure, you want and even desire a change from the ordinary and the routine.  But when you move to a foreign country you know you are staying for a while, the change of pace can go from exciting to unnerving.  You'll have to learn to live a different type of life in a new climate with new people, different languages and new traditions.  In a nutshell a new culture and it may take some getting used to. 

When you arrive in your new country, you or members of your family may experience emotions that run the gambit from homesickness to fear and acute unhappiness.  These are all normal feelings and are a part of a commonly used term: culture shock.

There are four easily identifiable phases to culture shock. 

You can prepare for them what to expect. 

  • Phase One - The Tourist.  This is the easiest phase to recognise.  Everything is new and exciting: the old buildings look charming. The hotel you check into is inviting and seems familiar.  The hotel employees speak English and it is their job to help you and ensure your stay in enjoyable.  You are taking it all in with gusto.  You have your camera at the ready and every moment is a photo opportunity.  And at the end of your wonderful day you return to your hotel room to relax.  This is how life is supposed to be, you say to yourself.

  • Phase Two - Reality.  You wake up one morning and you're not a tourist anymore.  Everyone who has been helping you has gone back to their own lives and you are left to fend for yourself.  But how can you?  The telephone isn't hooked up yet, so you can't call to find out about your missing furniture.  You got lost trying to find the children's new school and weren't able to ask for directions.  Your frustration increases as the communication issue arises again in the market, and you go home with something vaguely familiar for dinner this evening.  This feeling of powerlessness and lack of control over your new life makes you lash out at those close to you.  Try to remember that they are in the same boat as you or, in this phase, frozen in the same tracks as you. 

  • Phase Three - Escape.  You have had it.  There are still things that don't work, and you can't get across what needs to be done.  But, instead of persisting, you decide it's time to go home.  Time to gather up everything that's dear to you with the intent of getting back to your country, to what's recognizable to you.  You probably won't take the next jet out of town.  Instead you'll escape within the walls of your new home.  You'll spend hours looking at home videos you brought with you, or you'll get swept up in a good book or two or three.  The last thing you want to do is go out there again, unless you have to.  But you know you're going to have to. 

  • Phase Four - New Beginnings.  One day something happens and it all starts clicking.  Maybe a certain merchant recognised you and you got exactly what you wanted this time with ease.  It may be a wonderful story you child told you about school.  It could be that everyone has been slowly, but surely adapting all along.  It's been about six months now and your life has picked up a similar routine to what you had back (home).  You look back on what you went through and what you experienced.  It has been an adventure indeed, and with confidence you say, "the best is yet to come". 

 Excerpt from Magellan Health Services, Inc. (1999 - 2004) 


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