The 5 Stages of Culture Shock

Have you ever gone someplace new feeling all excited, then realizing all you want to do is go back home but soon you adapted? Then, when you go home again, it isn’t what you expect? Well that roller coaster of emotions is called Culture Shock.

Culture Shock is the concept of entering a new environment, approaching a new task or dealing with unfamiliar circumstances and feeling a sense of “shock” towards a new culture (the term is self-explanatory).

The image below walks through a standard culture shock pattern:

1. Honeymoon: This first stage is that feeling of jittery excitement you get when going someplace new. Let’s use Australia, as followed in the above image. So you’re in this new exotic country that’s warm in the winter and animals and insects are everywhere! You think to yourself, I’m never going back home because this place rocks. Maybe if I stay long enough, I’ll get an Australian accent… that type of thing. This place is called your Host Culture. You are very optimistic, curious, and look forwards to new exciting experiences. You’ll feel your surroundings are extremely welcoming and have a home-y feeling.

2. Homesick: This second stage is where you’ve gotten to the point where you think: there’s no place like home. This unfamiliar environment may feel stressful and bring about confusion, sadness or even frustration. Nothing seems right. Willingness to accept the culture’s differences becomes a chore. Rather than trying to adapt, you will blame your insecurity on these cultural differences. Being in Australia, the insects may be too much to handle and having a filmy layer of sunscreen on your skin really irritates you. The fact that you didn’t see any quokkas or kangaroos since you’ve arrived makes you disappointed.

3. Reverse culture shock: Eventually, you’ll come to terms with this Host Culture. You’ve experienced it long enough to know what things are good about it and you begin to appreciate this place. Now you feel relaxed and develop a more positive standpoint. After you realize that there are so many other things to look forwards to like the golden beach coasts and beautiful city night strolls. Tasting Lamingtons (basically Australia’s national cake) and trying out Vegemite allowed you to get a literal taste of their culture. You’re having the best time of your life and the trip is one to never forget.

4. Re-entry shock: Coming back home is not how you expected. Wanting to feel relieved, you instead feel an urge to go back from to the place you just left. A pervading sense that you had not experienced all there was to do makes you feel unsatisfied. You have a longing to go back, chill in those ocean swimming pools and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef to Find Dory. Scrolling through your pictures does not do you any justice to the euphoria you felt during your stay in Australia. In a way, re-entry shock is much more emotionally impactful than homesickness because it’s an unexpected and unpleasant feeling.

5. Home Sweet Home: Finally you’ve settled down back at home. Everything is back to the way it was and nothing is prevalent to bother you. You’re glad to be back home and you re-enter your routine daily life. You realize that the best place is home because that is where you feel the most comfortable and secure. At home in Canada, the mosquitos are avoidable and Nanaimo bars will (temporarily) satisfy your Lamingtons cravings.

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Image sources /1/2/3/4/5/6/7/

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