Every person decides to embark on a journey for a different reason. Whether it was out of love, financial needs, or you just simply grabbed your backpack and decided to explore the road, I think we all face some stages of adaptation and sometimes even struggles, while trying to settle down in a new country.
Most people who live or study in a foreign country for an extended period, experience cultural stress and homesickness. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and frustrated, and you should accept all these feelings as part of the cultural learning process.
Here is what you should expect during the cultural learning process.
Vacation Mood: ON
The first few weeks might feel like a nice vacation. You will probably act like a tourist, being excited about new sights and surroundings. It is very common that during these first weeks of euphoria and excitement you will notice both similarities and differences between the new culture and your home culture. You’ve probably seen that the first weeks in the new country makes you feel very motivated and open-minded.
Back to Reality: Culture Shock and Homesickness
Once you pass this first stage, you will probably find yourself looking for a new job, hunting an apartment to rent, making sure you have all your things together. As you are transitioning into the new culture, you might notice more difference between your home culture and your new culture. Things that did not bother you, in the beginning, begin to surface. You might feel stressed by small problems and often frustrated if things are not going the way you were expecting. It is also during this stage that you are highly sensitive because you are missing your family and friends at home
“Feeling at Home” - Adaptation and biculturalism
After a few months in the new country, you will find yourself more familiar with the new culture and its values. Maybe you already got a job, and your life feels like normal again. Or perhaps you made some new friends with whom you can return to your sense of humor and familiarity. You still feel from time to time a lack of motivation or homesickness, but these are moments that usually go away after a Skype call with your family and friends.
When you finally start feeling at home in the new country, you no longer feel affected by the differences between the two cultures. You begin to enjoy the world around you, often wanting to learn more about other cultures and their traditions.
I am sharing these cultural changes with you is because I’ve also gone through all of them seven years ago when I decided to move abroad. Now, I understand that is very important to accept and embrace all the stages of cultural adjustment. To embrace these changes means to analyze your situations and reactions and to find what helps you manage your stress and how you can keep a positive mind.
Living abroad does not mean that you don’t get to share any more special moments with your family and friends. Make plans for keeping in touch with them and share your experiences with people back home. It will help you on a personal level, but it will also make your family happy to see the world through your eyes.