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May 18 2011

Culture Shock

Stages of Culture Shock

As a new migrant to Australia, you will almost certainly experience some form of Culture Shock.

This was very well explained at a web site that used to be at: www.doctortravel.ca/culture_shock.asp and some excerpts are detailed here:

Psychologists describe five distinct phases (or stages) of culture shock.

1: Tourist or honeymoon phase

At first a person’s stay in a new country, everything usually goes fairly smoothly.

This period could last 6 months or longer. The newcomer is excited about being in a new place and experiencing a new lifestyle. The newcomer may have some problems, but usually accepts them as just part of the newness.

The newcomer may find that “the red carpet” has been rolled out for him or her. The feeling is the same for developing and highly developed countries.

2: Emptiness or rejection phase

The newcomer has to deal with transportation problems (buses that don’t come on time), shopping problems (can’t buy favourite foods) or communication problems.
One may start to seem like people no longer care about your problems. They may help, but they don’t seem to understand your concern over what they see as small problems.

You might even start to think that the people in the host country don’t like foreigners and are becoming alien. The symptoms listed above start to present themselves in full force. The newcomer may begin to feel aggressive and start to complain about the host culture/country. However, it is important to recognise that these feelings are real and can become serious.

This phase is a kind of crisis in the ‘disease’ of culture shock. It is called the “rejection” phase because it is at this point that the newcomer starts to reject the host country, complaining about and noticing only the bad things that bother them.

At this stage the newcomer may either move on to the third stage, seek comfort with a colony of countrymen Colony Syndrome or simply go home.

3: The Conformist Phase

This is characterised by gaining some understanding of the new culture, its ideals and values. A new feeling of pleasure and sense of humour may be experienced. One may start to feel a certain psychological balance.

The crisis is over when one starts to understand and tolerate cultural differences. The new arrival may not feel as lost and starts to have a feeling of direction. The newcomer is now 90% adjusted to the new culture.

4: Assimilation Phase or Complete Adjustment

In this stage we accept the food, drinks, habits and customs of the host country, and may even find some things preferable in the host country to things at home.

One realises that there are different ways to live and that no way is really better than another, just different.

Finally, the expat has become comfortable in the new place.

5: Reverse Shock

The fifth phase of culture shock is called “reverse culture shock” or “re-entry shock” and occurs when returning home.
Most returning expatriates have a fairly rough time before settling at home again.
Your international life will have changed you for ever.

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