Cultural Adjustment

We hope that you are enjoying your new home! While abroad you will encounter to some degree culture shock and cultural adjustment. Don't worry, this is all perfectly normal. Many people describe their reactions and experiences in a form of stages, that roll up and down...






Stages of Cultural Adjustment

1. Cultural Euphoria

Often named the "honeymoon" phase. Everything seems to be new, unique and exciting; with of course some slight drawbacks. The focus tends to be on the more noticeable and surface aspects of the culture such as: clothing, food, scenery etc. Often one looks more for similarities and differences are less concentrated on.

  • There is still much to learn about the culture. Be careful of making inaccurate assumptions this early!
  • Take the time to journal, blog, photograph and document your first days! You appreciate it when you look back in the future!

2. Cultural Confrontation

Some of your initial excitement is retreating and more frustrations arise. Some things seem much more difficult to do in your host country. Going to the grocery store, post office, getting across town, among other tasks seem much more cumbersome. Many say this is the hardest stage.

These are all normal feelings and are part of the cultural adjustment. Be proud that you are moving forward in expanding your cross-cultural awareness and whether you realize it or not you are developing your own cultural coping strategies.

  • Try not to take your frustrations out on your host country and people. Try to understand why they are bothering you.
  • Continue to explore where you are living and take time to enjoy it!
  • Get out and meet local people, this will help making you feel more comfortable. It is hard but be confident and know that you will appreciate and value these relationships in the future!
  • Remember to exercise, eat well, and rest. Living in a new culture is difficult, know your limits and take a break when you need to.

3. Cultural Adjustment

You feel increasingly more comfortable in your host country and while you still may have some frustrations, you have more ease in dealing with them. You are moving out of cultural shock and moving into cultural adjustment. You might still be feeling homesick but you are now more comfortable with interacting with people from your host country and look forward to it! Perhaps now you can even make a joke and your new host country friends understand it!

  • Continue to explore your host country: go out to a movie, the theater, or a concert and visit museums.
  • Revisit you initial ideas of your host country. Were you wrong about certain aspects? What still bothers you? What have you grown to love? Why?

4. Cultural Adaptation

By now you are feeling more and more comfortable with you host country and speak with less of an accent and/or crave local foods! You have been able to integrate some of the new culture aspects into your own culture and routine.

  • There is still more to learn about your host country's culture, continue to keep open and ask questions!
  • It is getting close to leaving! Go out and visit of those monuments and do all the things you originally planned to do! Time flies by, remember to stop and enjoy your time abroad!
  • Be prepared to depart and prepare yourself for reverse culture shock. Do not worry this is all normal; we are here to help you! When you get home connect with other students whom just returned from abroad and plug yourself into your community, using your newfound skills and knowledge.


Adapted from: Maximizing Study Abroad by Paige, Cohen, Kappler, Chi, Lassegard from the University of Minnesota

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