How To Overcome Culture Shock

The term “culture shock” originated in the 1950s. Basically it describes the physical and emotional discomforts that occur when someone moves from one cultural environment to another. There are several stages to culture shock.

In the holiday stage, which is the period just before and just after the move everything is new and exciting. One feels very energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful about everything in life. This is followed by the deterioration/ falling apart stage during which there may be great feelings of dissatisfaction. Things are difficult and one’s excitement turns to distress. One goes through communication difficulties, impatience, anger, grief, and a feeling of inexperience. There is more hope during the adjustment stage. This is when you can see some direction, you are able to laugh at yourselves again and life begins to feel a bit more balanced.

During the orientation stage there is an increasing feeling confidence and a sense of belonging. One starts to make connections within the new culture, and starts to enjoy many aspects of many of the customs and cultural conventions. It becomes easier to adopt these practices and make them part of your life and daily routine. Lastly, repatriation is when one returns to the “home country”. A “reverse culture-shock” is often experienced. Re-adjusting to the old culture is as hard as, and may be even more difficult than the original move.

You can experience:

Emotional trauma

Adjustment problems

Mental isolation

Acceptance and integration difficulties

Sense of separation

These are all quite normal for a period of time. The tips below may seem easy and oversimplified, but they work in overcoming culture shock. If it persists, however, seek professional help:


Don’t expect yourself, others or situations to be perfect.

Have an open mind.

Be active and participate.

Speak to support groups and/or individuals.

Stay in touch with family and friends.

Use Expat Forums on line – they are great

“Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.” Thomas Carlyle