Stages of Culture Shock/Adjustment

Many psychologists define “culture shock” as something like “the result of being overwhelmed by major life changes to established patterns without usual support systems.” This is what happens when you relocate overseas: most everything changes. There are generally five stages. Some folks go through these rapidly, some take awhile and some people stop at one point without reaching the end.

While everyone's move abroad is different, our experience has been that it can take six months or more for our family to fully adjust to a new place. We find the first month or two flies by in a blur of new things, followed by a lull that has in the past taken us down a road through some of the steps outlined below.

It seems to get more difficult as our kids get older (as of this writing they're now 8 and 5). On our last move the older one said goodbye to friends, her kindergarten teacher, her Daisy Scout troop and some newly-acquired tastes for frozen yogurt and “The Simpsons”. Friends with teenagers have suggested the adjustment can be quite hard on their families.

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