Culture Shock Stage 5: Depression

The last stage can come when you realize you can't escape the situation, that you are caught between a big rock and a hard, hard place. During this stage, one usually experiences the more severe physical and emotional effects of culture shock. You feel drained. You may become irritable over little things; occasionally you may cry without much of a reason. Leaving the house is difficult. You start actively refusing to take your language lessons instead of just skipping class. Your attitude is different.

With kids, look for a growing lack of interest in things that they used to enjoy, or a reluctance to leave their room, or home. Sometimes the child might start to demand things from “home” that she knows are not available locally, often times ascribing value to these foods or toys way out of line with their actual worth. Fights at school, use of profanity or racially derogatory terms for the host country people can also be signs to watch out for.

Whew. Most folks don't get to this point, never mind their kids. If you find yourself heading in this direction, counseling or other professional assistance is necessary. This is not a marathon you're trying to survive. It is supposed to be interesting, enlightening, maybe even fun. When “one of those days” starts to regularly become “weekdays” it is time to rethink what you are doing to yourself and your family. Throwing away every cultural clue you grew up with for constant newness is not for everyone, and there is no shame in realizing it is not the best for you either.

Balancing all this can be hard. This book, Parent's Guide to Successful Living Abroad, may help.

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