On Culture Shock

Culture shock refers to feelings of anxiety, depression, or confusion that often go along with adjusting to life in a foreign country.  The process of adjustment can be broken down into three stages:  The Honeymoon Stage, The Negotiation or Frustration Stage, and the Understanding or Acclimation Stage.

The Honeymoon stage generally occurs when you first arrive in your new country with vigor to experience a new culture.  “Symptoms” include an eagerness to learn the language, a love of the food, pace of life, habits, architecture, etc., and an excitement to experience as much as possible of the new country.  Why can’t honeymoons last forever?

The frustration stage can be expected to set in within weeks of your arrival as the initial enthusiasm begins to wear off.  During this stage, you begin to resent characteristics about the culture that you originally found appealing.  You may also feel homesick or become frustrated with the process of learning the language.  Mood swings and feelings of depression are not uncommon.  You may realize that you’re actually very lonely when your husband is away at the mine in Cajarmarca and wrongly resent him for it.  Some people have been known to have difficulty keeping their regular blog.

During the frustration stage, you might be so preoccupied with your feelings of sadness and loneliness that you get lost on your way to meet your friend, and then forget your apartment keys in the taxi you took to help you find the spot.  You might even sprint four blocks after the taxi, pushing people out of the way, crying and screaming in English “STOP!  MY KEYS!  MY HUSBAND IS IN CAJAMARCA!  I DON’T HAVE A SPARE!” only to have the taxi continue to drive away leaving you looking like a crazy person, crying hysterically on the sidewalk blubbering “I hate Peru!”

DiversityAbroad.com assures readers that the frustration stage occurs to millions of people and offers suggestions for coping.  It recommends that you try not to blame your host county (or husband) for your frustrations and to remember that adjusting to a new environment takes time.  The best way to handle it is to try your best to stay positive and focused on all of the new people, food, and experiences you’re having.  It also suggests keeping a journal…hmmm….or blog?

Fortunately, eventually most people who study, work, or travel abroad reach the Acclimation Stage.  This is when you begin to feel more comfortable functioning in your host country.  You build up a network of friends and have a better understanding of the language.  You feel relaxed in your environment and are able to compare both the good and bad of your native country with the good and bad of your host country.

Posted by Danielle L. Krautmann on 4 March, 2010

I have receive more than 30 messages via email and Facebook over the past two weeks asking me what happened to my blog.   I’m sorry I haven’t written much lately.  I’ve been in a slump.   I intend to resume more regular entries and look forward to telling about my Spanish classes and our recent vacation in Arequipa and Colca Canyon.  Stay tuned!

-Danielle

13 thoughts on “On Culture Shock”

  1. Danielle,

    Good job writing about your stages of growth. Time heals and you’ll get to a good place soon. Keep writing. It helps, although I understand that at times you can’t muster the enthusiasm. You are a beautiful strong woman.

    By the way, I’m spending the afternoon setting up my fly tying room(AKA The Man Cave), hanging art and organizing my feathers and hooks.

    Can’t wait to visit. I told mom to “book me(us) a flight.

    love,

    Dad

  2. When I first lived in Spain, I spent the second weekend iny room staring at pigeons on my windowsill who were.taking cover from the rain. I listened to the only English language radio station which was playing Barry Manilow’s greatest hits and a heavy rotation of feelings. I spent most of the day sobbing to the pigeons who didn’t seem to care. I had trouble with more than a basic conversation, the bars were closed because it was Sunday, and my phone card wasn’t working.

    After that lovely day, and some time adjusting, I fell in love with Spain. Every time I’ve been back, try to figure out ways to live there. The process is no fun, but you will get through it. Really.

  3. Danielle,

    Sounds like you are settling in. Glad you’re hanging in there. Pat Immen gave Kara a picture book (the size of the Golden Books) of the hike of Pawtuckaway. She is bringing it to school to show her friends. It looks like a real story books.

    Love the blog…periodic news about you are wonderful.

    Love Flip

  4. Danielle,
    I guess we are lucky. Bette and I are still in the honeymoon stage. We have felt really comfortable since the day we moved to Suncook. The French Canadian lifestyle seems to suit us.

  5. Liz Parker (Mom)

    Danielle, Go back! Rejoin the honeymoon stage. Eat more food, play with the language, open your eyes wide and absorb it all. Dress that silly dog up in her finest and take her for a paseo in Lima. They will be awestruck. Heads will turn. Skip that stupid frustration stage – life’s too short. Stay in the honeymoon stage or jump past to the acclimation stage – but not too much cuz we want you back eventually – after we come to visit, of course. Mom

  6. Dee-

    If anyone can can turn a difficult situation into a positive one it’s you- Hang in there, and try not to get down on yourself continue writing we love hearing from you!

  7. Hey you! Nice try it is not that easy…. acclimation happens when you hike not when you move. But you are doing the best thing which is to comunicate. By the way it isn’t so easy being married either. Give yourself a break but don’t slump! Anyhow remember you have a friend that is completely jealous you are eating homeade tamalis, want some hummus? Babaganoush?

  8. Danielle, You’re allowed to feel the feelings you have. It’s understandable. I am glad you are writing about it. So don’t feel guilty. I have faith in you and your ability to make lemonade out of lemons. Just give yourself a little more time. You are doing everything right!

  9. Danielle,

    I love your blogs and look forward to each new addition. I envy the opportunity that you have. Though I have travelled a lot I haven’t had the experience of being immersed in a culture as you are. Cherish every minute, good or bad, because when it’s over and you look back it’ll be one glorious memory.

  10. Virginia (Aunt)

    Danielle: Joe and I love reading your blogs! I’ve had friends who moved to foreign countries and told me the same thing you are going through. Linda is right though, the memories of being there are worth every minute of the seeming ‘torture’ you are enduring. Writing about your adventures are a balm to your soul and brings refreshment to those back at home.

  11. I love the way you think just like an OT. It’s like I’m reading a blog that I wrote myself, except I never had such interesting experiences to write on. Sure, there are some things I don’t get about you, like why you’d rather work with seniors than kids and how you could possibly enjoy kissing strangers (rubia puta), but I get this one very well.

    Two things:
    1) a mini carabeener – keys should always be fastened to your body or some other really important thing you always have with you, if you are a rubia. Those are the rules. Only rubias who are the trophy wives of some rich man can ignore the rules. I have a similar rule for my cell phone (zipper pouch on my work folder), neglected it only one time last week and next thing I knew I had left my phone at a client’s house.
    2)I talked to Alison this morning, and we are pretty much agreed on coming together to see you sometime in summer. I’m about 80% sure we will do this, but can’t make any exact plans yet.

    1. Hey cuz!

      I would love to have you guys come and visit. You are obviously welcome any time and I will have plenty of time to travel with you guys. As it gets closer to the summer you can start planning and figuring out when is best for you to come. We have friends visiting the last week in July through first week in August, but other than that, I’m available!

  12. Well, thank all of you for the encouraging words. I think its normal to have slumps…even if you live in the states…so I’m not too worried. I think as I continue to find things to occupy my time and gain comfort with the language, I will feel more settled here.

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