Daily Archives: October 5, 2009

Culture Shock Revisited or Is It Really All About Going Through the Stages

Whenever I give a presentation on Culture Shock, I try not to speak a lot at the participants.  Instead I allow them to share and, as we discuss what Culture Shock means to them, we discover how different each Culture Shock experience is for everyone.

However, if you read the research available out there on Culture Shock, you’ll discover, that most of it presents the phenomenon of Culture Shock as something that consists of five (5) stages.  And so when people look at this definition, they immediately begin to try to figure out what “stage” they are at and what awaits them in the future.  And while this process may offer some comfort and may show you that you are not alone, it’s not ideal.  Because not everyone goes through all the stages, not everyone goes in order the stages are presented, and not everyone can identify with these stages.

So instead of pigeonholing people into the stages and figuring out where each person is and how we can help him/her there, I take a different approach.  I encourage participants in my presentations to look at our experiences in another culture not through the lens of “stages” but rather through the lens of “perspectives”.

When we go through life, we find ourselves constantly changing perspectives.  In any one-day we can go through “frustrated”, “elated”, “sad”, “creative” and many other perspectives.  These perspectives color the way we look at the world around us and they also either empower or dis-empower us.

The same with Culture Shock.  When we move to a foreign place, we may find ourselves in a perspective of “curiosity” or perspective of “hate” or perspective of “longing for home”.  Any one of those can be a section of your Culture Shock journey, almost like those stages are.  Except that there is one thing you can do with perspectives that you cannot do with stages.  You can change perspectives at will.

That’s right.  If you are stuck in a perspective that’s not working for you, you are free to change it and choose another one — one that would be more empowering.  How?  There is a great exercise for that, but it would take too much space to describe it here.  You can read about it, though, in my Culture Shock book or you can join us for one of the Culture Shock Webinars and learn there.

So, what perspective are you in?  And what perspective would you like to be in?

UPDATE: Following this post I received many queries about my method of managing Culture Shock.  That’s why I decided to offer my innovative THREE STEPS TO MANAGING CULTURE SHOCK AND MAKING TRANSITIONS EASIER presentation over the web.

It was a great success! Read the testimonials here. If you didn’t have the chance to participate in the webinar, but would like to learn this great system of managing Culture Shock, you can either download an E-book or an on-line course here.

People who enjoyed this post also read:

Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings…Got One?

Seven Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat

A Different Take on Expatriate Motivation

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