Thursday, September 08, 2005

Culture Shock........it REALLY exists!

OMG, I just read an article about culture shock and how they have scientifically proved that it exists. Well, they proved this in 1958 - but I have just found out about it!! (Late learner!!) ... So take your pep pills and your Red Bull and read what I found out ....

Before I impinge any copywright laws, let me tell you that it was Kalvero Oberg who identified five distinct stages of culture shock. He found that it was like a disease - it has a cause, symptoms and (yay) some cures.

I found the five stages very interesting, hope you will too ....

Stage 1 : The Tourist or Honeymoon Stage - Everything is exciting and new and cute and fun. You may have problems, but accept them as part of the new adventure. (Ah, I remember it well) ... I was intrigued by everything Arabic - religion, dress, food, language, history - I hauled tonnes of books home and could almost recite them. I trawled the internet and prepared for the magic carpet ride. When we got here, I saw amazing, interesting people who were even more mysterious because they couldn't speak English - how fascinating.

Stage 2 : Emptiness or Rejection Stage - By now, the fact that shops are closed just when you need to shop, that taxi drivers can't or won't understand you, that your food is considered sinful and only available behind curtains in certain shops is irritating, painful and certainly no longer cute. You no longer try to learn a few Arabic words, insisting instead that "they" should speak English like everyone else. When they don't, you are convinced they are talking ABOUT you, not TO you. You complain more and may even become aggressive. In this stage, expats seriously consider leaving, or resign themselves to staying.

Stage 3 : The Regression Stage - You find yourself going backwards and you spend more time speaking your home language, eating food from home and actively seek out fellow countrymen. You don't want to meet locals and don't care about their customs or heritage. Your home country suddenly seems wonderful and you may find yourself wondering why you ever left.

Stage 4 : The Integration Phase or Complete Adjustment - You have gained some understanding of the new culture or at least you learn to tolerate the cultural differences. You are now more adjusted. You may even find some things preferable to your home country. You have become more comfortable and relaxed about differences. You have learned to adjust, accept and adapt to your new country. You know that if you left, there are things you would miss.

Stage 5 : Reverse Culture Shock Stage or Re-entry Shock - Just when you feel at ease and well-adjusted, you return home and find that you are no longer as comfortable there as you remembered. Many things may have changed and it takes you a while to get used to home again. People have moved on with their lives and had experiences that you have not shared. You are no longer special and different, you are just another face in the crowd.

So, if like me, you feel like you are on a rollercoaster in the pitch dark, at least you know that many, many, many others have felt the same way - I am not going crazy (well, at least, not MORE crazy!!)

Tomorrow, I will go further into the symptoms and treatment of culture shock - (if you really want to know) ... this entry is far too long already .....

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

When we got here and met "old timer" expats, they were very negative and unenthusiastic and seemed to be irritated by our enthusiasm to learn about the country. I thought they were being snobs, but now I think they were just at a further stage. Thanx for enlightening me.

Brn said...

I belive that I'm starting to pass out of the first stage now, so it was interesting to see what I have to look forward to. I can't wait for the rest of the info you have to share. Thanks!

strangeloops said...

Definitely something to think about. Thanks for sharing.

Keefieboy said...

Hmmm, what's the timscale for these milestones? After 12 years here I've definitely been through all those phases at least once.

Anonymous said...

Having re-patriated twice, I can definitely say that reverse culture shock is DEFINITELY the worst stage. You quickly have to develop a one sentence answer to "So, how was it in . . .?" as anything more will quickly bring on glazed eyes. The expat life is as addictive as drugs and only another expat will understand.

MD said...

We came to Dubai when I was a year old (now I'm 22) and I feel a sense of belonging to this country. However I know that in REAL terms, I don't belong here. But I don't even belong to my own country...so I'm torn. Sometimes that helps.

Though I'm a lot more attached to the country now, I do see where you're coming from. And I know friends who've been through this cycle. Thanks for sharing...I did smile :P

Rock.the.Casbah said...

What's the difference between an expat and a racist?

About three months!