Stages of cultural adjustments have 4 phases according to Winkelman (1994). Living abroad encourages students to have new thrilling experiences and increases cultural curiosity. However, it may also invite a sense of feeling a little lost in the world.
Cultural adjustments can affect people living far from home in unexpected ways. It is a common phenomenon known by many people living abroad, far from home. These four different phases are honeymoon, crisis, adjustment and acceptance. How we adapt and cope with new cultures varies widely from person to person. The impact on an individual may differ in their order based on how they are dealt with.
The Honeymoon Stage:
The first phase is characterized by initial euphoria. Everything is new, pursuing a dream job and taking in the new surroundings. You’ll find yourself nodding or smiling while interacting with locals. When in turn you haven’t understood anything. This is due to the enthusiasm laced with minor anxiety or nervousness due to the newness. Infatuated by the language and culture, you might even take up learning the language. This chapter of initial newness eventually deteriorates, carrying you to the next stages of adjusting to a new culture.
The Crisis Stage:
Hostility brings the experience of frustration, anger, anxiety and sometimes depression during this stage. You may feel bitterness towards the culture. Not understanding gestures, signs, or sometimes even the language can cause stress. Simple things might set you off. The process of adapting to a new culture can cause frustration. At this point, you also start to miss your friends and family back home and idealise the life you had there. This is often when physical symptoms can appear and you may experience minor health ailments as a result of the transition. The buildup of such difficulties is called “culture shock”. Cultural shock stages depend on a person’s self-awareness. Culture shock is more than simply being unfamiliar with social norms or experiencing new foods and it tends to impact travellers even after they’ve become familiar with and comfortable in new cultures. Feelings of discontent may appear towards the locals. The stages of adjusting to a new culture depend on how long a person spends in a particular culture.
Symptoms of Culture Shock
Culture shock manifests itself in different forms:
- Severe homesickness and calling home much more often than usual
- Changes in eating habits and sleeping habits
- Feeling hostile
- Constant complaining about the host country/culture
- Irritability, sadness, depression
- Frequent frustration
- Easily angered
- Sense of failure and self-doubt
- Recurrent illness
- Withdrawing from friends or activities
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The Adjustment Stage:
This stage of cultural adjustments is where you learn to fight back all the negative remarks. Although recovering from culture shock is handled differently by everyone, routine patterns begin to set in and everything falls back in place. You will be accustomed to the food, life, and customs. Locations become recognizable, language becomes easier while communicating and new friends are made. Stages of Adjusting to a new culture might initially take time. Here are some ways of easing this transition. Here are some ways to cope with the stages and symptoms of culture shock:
- Acknowledge that what you are going through is normal. Be patient and give yourself time to work through the process of all the stages of adjusting to the new culture. The unpleasant feelings are temporary, natural and common to any transition that a person makes during their life.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep!
- Find someone to talk to. Find friends who are going through a similar process or see a counsellor.
- Stay in touch with your home countries news and friends from back home
- Have fun and relax! Become a member of a social community. Join student groups. Get out of your room and volunteer to help others. Take up a new sport to keep you occupied and healthy. Participate in activities, clubs and student organizations of interest to you.
The Acceptance and Adaptation Stage:
Finally, you reach the adaptation stage. Also known as the bicultural stage. You have successfully adapted to your new way of living and adapted to the new country you now live in. The feeling of isolation and loneliness wipes off while you get used to your new daily activities and friends. You begin to “feel at home” in your newly acquired culture. Managing the stages of adjusting to a new culture becomes easier. Solving issues becomes easier too. A sense of belonging to this new community develops and the new place is enjoyable. While you may never get back to the heightened euphoria you felt during the honeymoon stage, you’ve now gained a strong sense of belonging and finally feel at home in your new environment.
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