Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Surviving culture shock - what you can expect

When you live abroad (for longer than a few months) you will inevitably face some form of culture shock, which has also been described as feeling like a fish out of water. I've mentioned the term briefly before on this blog and I just thought I'd explain it a bit better and write about the different stages. I haven't met a single expat who hasn't gone through a rough patch after moving countries. It can be a real rollercoaster of emotions that first year!

  • The Honeymoon Phase
  • This first stage when you just arrive in a new country is overwhelmingly positive. You're seeing everything with rose-tinted spectacles and it's exciting and fun. Everything about my new country is wonderful! What a great adventure! I love it here.
    My first week living in Germany

  • The Rejection Stage
  • After awhile though you start to see another side to the place and begin to feel somewhat disoriented and frustrated. Why is it so difficult to fit in? I don't understand the language. No one gets me.
    When I was experiencing this, I started going back to Ireland as often as possible, which needless to say didn't really help me adjust to my new life here.

  • Depression Stage
  • This is the hardest. You will feel depressed, lonely and homesick. You start to idealize life "back home" and compare your current culture to what is familiar. I'm stuck here. Is this my life now? Did I make the right decision moving here? Some people give up when this happens and return home.

    I mention the rough patch in my second blog post (long commute, feeling homesick, not many friends here, finding the German language difficult.)

  • The Acceptance Stage
  • This is where you start to appreciate the new country and feel like you fit in and belong. Yes, I can do this! It's not so bad. I'm happy here. You are now able to compare and appreciate aspects of both countries. You start to feel at home in your new home. For me what helped a lot was when I started to really make more of an effort to integrate myself here, for instance taking German lessons, going to lots of meetups to make friends, getting to know the area.
    When I started to really settle in and look on the positives.

Some useful tips for fitting in as an expat here.

If you are living abroad, did you experience culture shock? How did you cope?

Expat Life with a Double Buggy


  1. I luckily never had the really down phase, maybe only when visa problems got in the way. Hope it never comes, but I'm pretty sure it won't or my Honeymoon phase would have been verryyyy long ;)

  2. I have recently heard from a few expats that they have actually gone back a stage after acceptance - around the seven year mark which I found really interesting but can't personally identify with.

  3. I totally had that down phase 1 year after moving to Stuttgart from Italy.... Then I discovered CrossFit, I fell in love with the sport itself but mostly I loved the fact that you get into a community and in a few months I was feeling at home and found the new friends I needed.
    And as this literally changed my life, I decided to open my own CrossFit gym to try and help other people in my same situation.


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