I’m sure you’ve heard of culture shock before, but did you know there are four stages you will likely go through when adjusting to life in a new country? With these four stages comes different struggles that you’ll have to deal with.
The Honeymoon Stage
You know sometimes when you meet new people or start a new job and you absolutely love everything about them at first? Expect the same feeling with moving to a new country. The newness of it will suck you in. You’ll become the ultimate tourist, wanting to soak up everything around you. You’ll likely think to yourself “I’ve totally got this. I’m not going to have any problems here.”
This was me for the first three months in Costa Rica. I was so excited by the warm weather that I just loved everything. Plus, it was a lot of fun to see so many new places. Eventually, that feeling wore off.
What To Do?
I find the best way to cope with this initial feeling is to live it up as much as possible, but remember it probably won’t last. There’s nothing worse than doing something crazy like buying a house because you’re so obsessed with a place only to realize it’s not actually all that great a few months later.
Negotiation (Usually after about 3 months)
It will no longer be exciting and new to be in a different country. You will find yourself comparing everything to your home country (and probably not in a good way). You’ll likely think things like, “We do this in a much more efficiently where I’m from.” You’ll get stressed out by minor problems that typically wouldn’t bother you. You’ll probably feel extremely homesick and seek out people from your home country in order to feel like you can relate to someone.
What To Do?
The best way I’ve found to get beyond this stage is to stay busy exploring new places and seek out new friends. You can read my tips for making friends here. I find it really helpful to make at least a few friends from your home country so you have someone that can relate to you on a cultural level. That being said, it’s good to make friends that are not also in this stage. I’ve made that mistake and become completely miserable. When someone else is telling you how much they dislike a place as well you’ll just end up hating the situation you are in even more.
Slow Adjustment (Usually after 6 to 12 months)
You will start to feel more comfortable in your surroundings and you’ll find life to start to become “normal”. You’ll become more interested in learning and adapting parts of the culture into your own life. You probably won’t agree with every part of your new culture, but you’ll replace resentment with humor for the culture and will take on a positive attitude towards the culture.
I find this stage to be really bittersweet. It’s a great feeling to become more comfortable, but I always feel a bit guilty about it, as though I’m disregarding my home culture for a new one. Over time I’ve realized I’m just becoming a more open-minded, interesting individual.
What To Do?
The best way I’ve found to deal with this phase is to just embrace it and keep going. Try to take on more activities, learn the language etc. You’re feeling a bit more at home now, so venture out and solidify that feeling.
Eventually, you will hopefully think of your new country as a second home. You may not agree with everything, but it becomes easy to work around that. You will be able to live and work with ease.
I read an article recently where a girl described living in different countries as like having Horcrux’s throughout the world (for all you Harry Potter fans.) I loved this analogy because it perfectly describes how I feel. I now have homes on three continents. It’s an amazing but sad feeling.
What To Do?
I cope by visiting my other “homes” as much as possible. I also try to stay in contact with friends and family from these other places. It’s great to have people that can keep you updated on life when you are not actually living in a place.
I’d love to hear about your experiences adjusting to a new culture in the comment section below. Also, if you have any questions about how you can make your move abroad a little easier, feel free to leave them in the comment section and I will try to answer them as best as possible.
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