From personal and professional experience, I can tell you there are stages of cultural adjustment. Personally, I relocated to Stockholm, Sweden in my adulthood and have experienced all the stages of cultural adjustment and then some!
Professionally, many of my clients have sought out an English-speaking therapist in Stockholm for precisely this reason. They needed a therapist who could understand their experiences and their language, too.
Kalvero Oberg an anthropologist, among other things, identified “culture shock” in 1958 and defined it by giving it distinct stages with names.
It is possible you can recognize yourself in one of these stages or find yourself going in and out of them simultaneously. It will be stages 2 and 3 where your stress will be the highest and your energy the lowest.
Culture Shock, Stage #1: The Honeymoon or Tourist Stage
You might feel excited and energized by the beginning of starting a new “adventure.” You have hopes and dreams of how it will be to live in your new country. You feel happy and positive.
Culture Shock, Stage #2: The Irritation-Anger-Sadness Stage
Things that were simple back home require more effort in the new country. It seems hard to make friends, and at this point, you may even begin to believe that the local people are unfriendly and/or “too” reserved. Longing for what feels like home deepens, and along with it complaints about the new country. This is the stage often referred to as “culture shock.”
Culture Shock, Stage #3: The Rejection / Regression Stage
You might find yourself withdrawing from all that seems “too” different to you. You prefer to only meet with expatriates like yourself or no one at all.
Culture Shock, Stage #4: The Integration / Assimilation Stage
When you find yourself going in and out of stage 4 integration-assimilation, it is here that you are neither completely rejecting your own culture nor that of the new country. In these periods when you sense you are more bicultural you will feel calmer and in less need of adjusting much in yourself.
Culture Shock, Stage #5: The Reverse / Re-entry Stage
Yes reverse culture shock does exist and it is good to prepare yourself for it if you are returning to your culture of birth.
10 Tips for Managing Culture Shock
- Be aware of the signs, including the physical symptoms of stress.
- Continue to explore you immediate environment. Create a mental map of your surroundings. Learn the public transportation system.
- Ask questions about social customs from people with whom you feel comfortable. This can be a two-way exchange, with you telling people about life in your home country.
- Keep in touch with your own culture. For example where is it you can buy the cooking ingredients so that you can make your comfort food from home? Who also speaks your native language and will understand funny movie references and idiomatic expressions?
- Try to make at least one friend from the new culture.
- Ask yourself which situations you find easier to handle. Sprinkle a variety of easier tasks with the more difficult in you day.
- Stay open and curious while avoiding comparing them and us, good and bad. Just think about why people in general may behave the way they do. Everything is not always because of the difference in cultural.
- Try to establish regular routines. Keeping physically fit and exercising will reduce stress.
- If you are feeling very low, talk to someone about it. This could be friends far away, new fiends also new to this culture, your partner, or your colleagues to name a few. However, the most important thing is to reach out to others. Reaching out to others increases positive feelings.
- Write down things you like and pay attention that you are doing them. Be intentional about creating these positive events in your life.
Cultural adjustment includes stress and does exist. It will most likely effect you in one way or another but it will not last forever and there is not something wrong with you. You are immersed in unusual circumstances which also offers you a valuable opportunity to experiment with new forms of attitudes and behaviors in yourself. The experience of being immersed in another culture is a mind and personalty stretching process. You will be left with deeper awareness about yourself as a person and in relation to others if you participate.
Most likely you chose to BE in a new culture and “adventure.”
Now you can also choose HOW to be here.
Experiencing Culture Shock?
Take a look around my website. I haven’t podcasted too much on this topic, but I have written other blogs about culture shock and giving yourself the love and support you need during difficult times.
Of course if you think you need a little more help, drop me a line. I’m an English-speaking therapist based out of Stockholm. If you think I might be a good fit, drop me a line and let’s see if I can help ease the adjustment.