Not feeling good abroad? You might experience culture shock!

Going abroad and leaving your country, the one you've grown up in, your culture and traditions... that's not easy for anyone. You can even quickly feel homesickness, due to what's called "culture shock". This mainly happens in a case of a long stay (several months) in a different culture. Culture shock has been divided up into a process of 5 main different phases. Let's see them with Rebecca Fong, a teacher of intercultural communication at the University of the West of England.

  1.  Euphoria or exhilaration: This phase is also called "the honeymoon period". It usually takes from a few weeks to a few months depending on your personnality and the cultural distance, that's to say how different both cultures are. Everything is new and great, you see it as an exciting experience and you tackle your problems with good humour. Actually you're too busy to get depressed.

  2. You realise that you're an outsider: You start to experience the differences between both cultures and to face some problems: trafic problems, you don't like the typical food there... Even if people are pretty kind to you, you just feel like you're a misunderstood person. This is a critical stage because you begin to over-idealise your own culture and make the gap between both cultures become more important. Lots of people give up at this stage after having suffered it for a while.

  3. Recovery and acculturation: This is the learning process, your language skills definitely improve and, as a result, your contact with the culture also improves and you integrate better with it. You also make more efforts to be part of the community, making friends and being interested in typical manners and customs of the country. You're on the right track to recover from your culture shock! However, in this stage, you might still want to impose your own ideas rather than accepting the one of the host culture...

  4. You adjust properly and appreciate the other culture: You really start to understand the norms and values of your host culture for what they are, and feel pretty integrated and comfortable with it. You might even believe that some of your host culture's values are better than your own! =)

  5. Going back home: Going back home can be quite a challenge too. Indeed, you might face some difficulty to re-adapt to your own culture after a long period spent abroad! This might be considered as re-acculturation or re-entry shock. But don't despair, as Rebecca Fong says; "there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the more times you experience culture shock, the easier it's going to get." (get more information about Rebecca Fong's studies on culture)

Now that you know this 5-stage-process better, we'll give you some advices on how to deal with culture shock when going abroad, how to acculturate and adjust properly to the other culture, making the culture shock less important and the recovery easier! In the meanwhile, you can have a look at these useful advices for students going abroad. See you next week!

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