Culture Shock and Expatriate Adjustment

When you move to a new country with a new culture, you inevitably will experience a cultural shock. The shock is less and less intense with each move to another country. So if this is your first international assignment, don’t worry, what you are experiencing is totally normal, everybody else is going through it.

Moving to a new country, just like moving back home has certain emotional stages for each individual. These are:

Arrival/ Honeymoon Stage

Arrival/ Honeymoon Stage when you are excited by your new environment and experience the vacation feeling.

Culture Shock

Culture Shock when you realize how different customs are, how much you need a language you do not speak, how normal everyday things work in a different way from home.

During the culture shock you experience a mixture of emotions like confusion, anger, sadness, homesickness and the feeling of ‘why did I come here?’.


Recovery when you try to find solutions and workarounds for the problems and issues you experienced.

In this phase you will start replacing negative feelings with positive ones about the new country.

You will experience smoother communication and will start to understand local customs and traditions better.


Adjustment when you figure out your way of doing things in a different environment from yours. You start to feel more at home in the new country, your life becomes more settled and stable.

What you dislike about the new country will not make you as unhappy or dissatisfied as before.

The phases of adjustment last for different periods for each individual. Some people are over with it in weeks, some in months, some even a year.

It is important, however to understand that this is a normal psychological reaction from each individual and eventually you will get to the adjustment phase.

Remember, Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock are both very normal! It’s important to be sensitive, patient, and understanding.

Still have questions? We can help you.

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