Culture Shock – What to Expect When Relocating

Culture Shock can be both an exciting and intimidating experience. To better your chances of it being the former, a little preparation will go a long way.

What is Culture Shock?

When talking about relocation, Culture Shock describes understanding, appreciating and adjusting to a host culture.

There can be many differing levels of Culture Shock associated with relocating, ranging from simple, expected changes like different accents, languages, TV, radio and weather, to less anticipated changes, like alternative world views, social expectations and business etiquette. Knowing what to expect and preparing both physically and mentally for it can make your entrance into a new culture an enthralling one.

Culture Shock is described by experts as having four distinct phases:

Honeymoon/Excitement Phase – The difference between the familiar and the unknown is perceived in a positive light. Changes in lifestyle and surroundings are exciting and fun.

Withdrawal/Negotiation Phase – As time goes on, the differences become more noticeable and inescapable. The reality of being very far from home sets in and can cause some anxiety and frustration.

Adjustment Phase – The nuances of the host culture become more ‘normal’ and less intimidating or intrusive.

Mastery/Enthusiasm Phase – The host culture is now a comfortable and happy place to live in. Any anxiety and frustration has gone and the new culture can be enjoyed and truly appreciated.

These stages can vary in duration and severity so it is important to be aware of the effects they can have on the success of relocation.

What can you do to prepare?

Learn – Educate yourself and everyone involved about the host country. This can be done by both personal and professional means by using the internet, books on customs and culture and relocation seminars.

Be realistic and look to the future – Remember that Culture Shock is normal and almost everyone goes through it when relocating. Stay positive and open-minded. Set goals to work towards and track progress with.

Training/Seminars – Seek the advice of experts. It can prove incredibly beneficial to get help from professionals in the area of relocation issues.

Relocating is a huge step and when done the right way with thorough preparation, it can be one of the most exciting experiences you’ll have. Do your research, plan, and enjoy what will be a wonderfully memorable life experience for all involved.

4 thoughts on “Culture Shock – What to Expect When Relocating

  1. What about the dissonance everyone experiences when in a new environment? Also, “Cultural Shock” doesn’t only happen when one travels to another country. It often happens when one is in a different region of the same country or state.

    • It’s a very good point – one can certainly experience culture shock within the same country.

  2. Great article! I’ve traveled all over the world during my 20 year tenure in the Navy, and even on family vacations. I’ve always tried to learn something about the culture prior to visiting. Then learn even more while I’m in the host country. It’s always a treat learning about new people, places and cultures :0)

    • Thanks for the comment, Charmaine. Sounds like you made the most of your travel destinations!

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