Life abroad ? Culture shock ? Check how it scientifically goes

Whether you have just decided to go and study abroad, just got successfully a working contract for career-promising job, or just decided to move out and get a fresh start, you must be, at the very beginning very excited, then a little bit unsure when the day-to-leave is coming closer, then somehow confused when you are at the airport.

Those scrambled feelings all vanish when you put your first foot out on the ground in your destination country and get replaced by excitement and euphoria. Everything is new, everything has changed, goodbye routine and boredom, welcome new life. Go then and change immediately your facebook information about where you actually live, that’s a good moment of realization, things are getting concrete. Those feelings stay for a while because it takes time for you and for your mind to get used of your new life-style and your new activities, get used to the new rhythm of living, and check out all the interesting sightseeings in the neighbourhood. A couple of trips to the neighbouring countries usually comes after few weeks of the arrival.

You become also a Skype-person at night, your family and parents want always to check on you and stay updated with what you do and what your news are. This becomes later some routine and the calls frequency drops continuously: both sides are getting used with the absence of other side.

The days are going fast and following each other without your notice. If you are making an internship, you will be waiting impatiently of the last month, so that you can go back and celebrate your achievement. If this is the case, you will not enter the second phase of the experience. If you are staying longer, then you will feel something weird: excitement is decreasing, euphoria is evaporating and you are starting to ask yourself questions, such as whether you had made the right decision coming up to here, whether you still feel comfortable, whether you are still enjoying what you are doing. Some people will start even to feel lonely…

This state of mind, which is called “culture chock”, comes usually after 6 to 8 months after your arrival, unlike what people usually believe: that it comes from the beginning. It will last for  4 to 6 of months, during which you will feel somehow lost and very unsure of your future. But this won’t last forever, your mind and body will start reacting to find a solution of this uncomfortable state of mind.

Here there are 2 possibilities, during this phase of adaptation and environment-adjustment, either you will finish it successfully and you will feel that you really belong to this new environment and get well along with this new life. The end of this phase is feeling your new environment as Home. If it has been already one year since you came to this new country and you feel it already like Home. Then the culture-chock phase has just been gone through successfully.

The second possibility, which happens very unlikely, is that you start recognizing that you don’t really belong to here, and this is not the country in which you meant to live in. Then the decision to leave and go back or somewhere else comes. And you are really convinced of it. The accuracy of this second possibility, depends on how different your new country is, of your home country.

Many parameters intervene: language, food, way of living of the new country, whether you travelled alone or with your family or within a group of people, your age, your personality, your general experience and your experience abroad, and the psychology and trends of the new society you are part of.

Here is a curve which explains  and sums up the whole concept:

Translation of the german keywords:
Hypothetischer Verlauf der Kulturschockkurve: Hypothtical progress of the curve of culture chock
Vor der Ausreise: Before the leving / Nach der Ausreise: after the leaving
Befindlichkeit: adapation
Auswahl: the result of the decision that you are going abroad
Zu Hause: in the home country
In der Fremde: in the foreign country
Kulturelle Anpassung: cultural adjustment

Living abroad: Adaptation and Culture Chock Source: giz - Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit
Living abroad: Adaptation and Culture Chock
Source: giz – Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit

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