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New Home - New Challenges

New Home - New Challenges

Are you aware that you might be experiencing culture shock?

Do you feel too excited or, on the contrary, too tired and even depressed for no reason? Do you miss your home too much or feel like everything around you does not make sense? If your answer is yes, are these feelings normal?

According to the world famous cultural anthropologist Oberg, culture shock may be defined as a psychological state, experienced by people coming to a new country. This phenomenon is typically caused by such factors as psychological loss, language barrier, foreign environment, cultural contrasts, etc., and is triggered by immigration or in some cases by a simple visit to a new country. Newcomers often struggle to adapt to a foreign environment immediately, which frequently results in confusion, helplessness, homesickness and even anxiety (Eschbach et al, 2001).

As a psychologist, and someone who has experienced this phenomenon, I want to discuss the phases that a person undergoing a culture shock might endure.

Depending on the source you read, culture shock can have three to five stages. Such factors as the degree of cultural contrasts between one’s native country and a new one, length of time spent away from home, as well as personal traits of an individual might determine whether a person will experience all of the phases.

Here are the phases of Culture Shock:

Honeymoon Phase
This is a fun time. You are in love with a new country and new people. Everything seems great and exciting. You love meeting new people, tasting new foods, doing new things and even having a new job.

Honeymoon is Over Phase or Differentiation
You are beginning to notice things that are different; even very small differences might rub you the wrong way. You no longer like the attitudes of the locals, you have had enough of their food and just want mom's cooking, you miss familiar television programs, you do not like the weather- it is too hot/cold, their pace of life is too fast/slow, they celebrate all the wrong holidays; things are just so much "better" at home... Does it sound familiar? During this stage you might feel anxious, angry, frustrated, sad and irritable. You might even experience difficulty concentrating at your new job.

The Negotiation Phase
It is hard to say when this phase begins. This phase is similar to the second one but not as strong. If you're successful, you will regain your sense of perspective, balance and humor, and move on to the next phase.

Everything is OK Phase
You accept almost all that is different in a new culture and begin to feel more at home. It is not the honeymoon phase, so you are not necessarily in love with your new home, but negative feelings are minimized. You may feel like you finally belong or at least feel comfortable enough to appreciate the differences and face the challenges.

Reverse Culture Shock
It can happen! Once a person becomes adjusted to the way things are in a different country, upon his/her return home, s/he might go through the same sequence of culture shock phases.

Now, knowing these phases, I hope your new life in your new home will be a little easier, and perhaps you will be able to help someone close to you, someone who might be experiencing culture shock without knowing about it.

Good luck and enjoy your new home!

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