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UVM Study Abroad Pre-Departure Guidebook

Section 2 Cross Cultural Issues

Culture Shock and the Process of Cultural Adjustment

What are the stages of Cultural Shock and Cultural Adjustment?

1. “Honeymoon stage”-When you first arrive, the differences you observe are new, exciting and interesting. You are optimistic and are likely to focus on the positive aspects of your new environment.
2. “Homesickness”-As some time passes, the differences that were once interesting have now become obstacles for you to get things done or communicate effectively. You may begin experiencing any of the following feelings or behaviors:

  • disorientation and confusion
  • acute homesickness for family, friends and places
  • helplessness
  • frequent frustration
  • being easily angered
  • fatigue
  • withdrawing from friends or other people
  • self-doubt, sense of failure
  • sadness, loneliness, melancholy
  • preoccupation with health
  • aches, pains, and allergies
  • insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little
  • changes in temperament, depression, feeling vulnerable, feeling powerless
  • anger, irritability, resentment, unwillingness to interact with others
  • identifying with the old culture or idealizing the old country
  • loss of identity trying too hard to absorb everything in the new culture or country
  • unable to solve simple problems
  • lack of confidence
  • feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
  • developing stereotypes about the new culture
  • developing obsessions such as over-cleanliness
  • feelings of being lost, overlooked, exploited or abused

3. “Initial Adjustment”-gradually, you begin to feel more oriented and comfortable in the new culture. Your confidence builds as you start to adjust to the differences and expand your circle of friends.
4. “Adaptation”-Don’t underestimate the adjustment that will be required when you return home from your sojourn. People go through a similar series of stages upon re-entry to their home culture.

These stages are present at different times and each person has their own way of reacting in the stages of culture shock. As a consequence, some stages will be longer and more difficult than others. Many factors contribute to the duration and effects of culture shock. For example, the individual's state of mental health, type of personality, previous experiences, socio-economic conditions, familiarity with the language, family and/or social support systems, and level of education.

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Last modified April 26 2012 12:15 PM

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