Dealing with culture shock as an expat -
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Dealing with culture shock as an expat

Culture shock is a term described by the Oxford dictionary
to be a feeling of disorientation that one experiences when they find
themselves in a new place, surrounded by new attitudes and cultures.

Culture shock is different for everybody, and its duration
and ferocity differs vastly. Upon first moving abroad, an expat will typically
feel euphoric and extremely excited but soon after, culture shock can set in. It
can be described as a roller-coaster ride because it is a long process that
consists of mixed feelings of negativity and positivity.

There are different stages that depend on a person’s personality
and the circumstances they find themselves in. Adapting to a new life will be
easier for some and harder for others.

A number of factors can trigger shock. Suddenly finding
yourself among people who speak a completely different language can make
communication extremely challenging. A trip to the hospital can trigger it,
especially if the facilities and quality of medication are far different than
what you are used to. Differences in food and drink as well as laws and customs
are also influences.

  • Those suffering from culture shock will usually experience
  •  Homesickness and loneliness
  •  Mood swings
  • Sadness and depression
  •  Loss of identity and confidence
  • Difficulty fitting in
  • Dissatisfaction and irritability
  • Sudden idolisation of your home country


It can be argued, that those who receive the least support
from their employers and loved ones struggle the most. A feeling of resentment
towards their new home and culture is not uncommon. Physical symptoms can

  • Lack of sleep or sleeping too much
  •  Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Random aches and pains
  • Frequent sickness


The culture shock phase, also known as the crisis phase,
differs in length. Feelings of frustration and unease are dominant and it is
usually during this phase that the expat will seek contact with loved ones to
try and gain back some of their ‘old identity.’

The next phase is recovery. The expat accepts their
situation and starts to take some action. This could be throwing themselves
into the new culture and learning the language so that they feel comfortable in
their new environment.

The final stage is adaptation. Here, the feeling of unease and
unhappiness disappears as the expat finds themselves at home. They can work
effectively and do not feel so isolated. Taking some time to learn about the
people and the values of the country you are planning to move to can make a
huge difference in curbing the shock you may be facing.

Carry out some research and prepare yourself by taking a look at our country guides.

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