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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.
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 include:
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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Expatriate Group & Expatriate Healthcare are trading styles of Strategic Insurance Services Limited who is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). FCA Firm reference Number is 307133. Strategic Insurance Services Limited is authorised to carry on Regulated Activities in accordance with the permissions granted by the FCA under PART IV of the Financial Services and Markets ACT 2000.