How to minimize cultural shock
October 2, 2017
Are you counting the days remaining for moving abroad? Have your children started planning their bedrooms’ decoration in the new home or even decided which new sports will they practice next school year? Probably, you must have already prepared the most practical concerns of your relocation, such as packing, finding your new home or even ordering new furniture, but a relocation is much more.
A relocation involves moving from one culture to another and this means that you – and your family- will be leaving your social, personal and professional circles and create new ones. While this is a unique opportunity to grow and learn, it’s also likely that you require some time to get adjusted to the new environment.
The Norwegian sociologist Sverre Lysgaard studied this adjustment process and he identified four stages that most expatriates go through when they arrive into a new culture. Getting familiar with them will help you to be prepared for those moments when you are down. Memorize these stages -or even print them and put them on the fridge door!- and when you feel a bit down, just have a look at them and remember: it’s just temporal!
Stage 1: Honeymoon Phase
In this stage, you only see the “bright side” of your new culture. You are an optimist with all the new opportunities opened to you and excited by the new things that come to you every day. From enjoying a new dish to discovering a new place in your town, joining a new class or relaxing under the sun.
Stage 2: Crisis Phase or Cultural Shock
In this phase, you might notice that some of the rules, habits, and patterns of behavior you were used to in Bahrain don’t work in your new country. As a consequence, you can feel confused and frustrated and you might feel unease in some unfamiliar situations.
Stage 3: Recovery
After a while, you can identify the local cues and you don’t get shocked or uncomfortable by some common local habits and behaviors. You start getting familiar with them and navigate through the local culture much easier.
Stage 4: Adaptation
At this stage, you can consider yourself integrated into the new culture. You feel at home (or at least, at your second home), you have succeeded at making local friends and you enjoy plenty of things and activities without being stopped by the cultural differences.
Remember: the adaptation to a new culture is not a linear path, but the more knowledge and understanding you have from the cultural differences, the better –and probably faster- this adaptation will be!