Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Stages of Culture Shock

The term culture shock was first coined in 1954 by anthropologist Kalvero Oberg. Since then, it has been defined and redefined many times and condensed and expanded into any number of stages. The steps below are my own simplified interpretation of a huge body of work that exists on this topic. Generally, a person goes through all of these stages, but depending on the circumstances, some may be skipped or condensed. Each individual passes through these stages at a different rate, and it would be impossible to estimate how long each phase “usually” takes. For a person to successfully assimilate into a new culture, the final stage must be reached.

This is an important field of study for businesses who send people overseas to work, as money spent on relocation and training is wasted if a person cannot get past the initial culture shock and must be returned home prematurely.

1. I LOVE IT—“Everything is beautiful. This is going to be way better than home.”

2. I DON'T LOVE IT—“I am not enjoying this, but everyone else thinks it’s great, so it must be just me.”

3. I DON'T EVEN LIKE IT—“It is not getting any better; in fact, it is getting worse, and I know it is certainly not just me. This place is backwards and crazy. Home is way better than this.”

4. I HATE IT—“I am finally figuring out what is wrong with this place and I can express it in specific terms.”

5. I UNDERSTAND IT—“I understand why this place is the way it is, and I am learning to function here, although it is not what I would prefer.”

6. I UNDERSTAND ME—“I can easily see why I had such a hard time when I first arrived. My world view has adjusted a bit now and I can see positives and negatives about this culture, as well as the one I've come from. Some of the differences and similarities are actually pretty funny. I can make it here, if I must.”

7. I OWN IT—“This is my home. I am as comfortable here now as I was before I moved. I am finally the real me again. I will always have a special place in my heart for both of my homes. I am now bi-cultural.”

I would be curious to hear from anyone who has moved to a new place, either long or short-term. Have you experienced some or all of these stages?


For more in-depth study, I would recommend the works of Dr. Kalvero Oberg, Paul Pederson, Dr. Marv Mayers and Dr. Sherwood Lingenfelter.


mrsfish said...

Thank you, thank you! I am moving between 5 and 6 - Ben is clearly in #3, Emily is #7 I think I did #2 before #1

Mister Ed T said...

We loved the "Great White North!" Never had much of the negative steps. But went through many of these symptoms, prertty much in order in one church. Knowing we were where God wantd us made a bid difference in all of our major moves.

Sheila said...

OK, nothing about this particular post, but I LOVE the new pics on the sidebar! Random Posts - that one is GREAT! So clever. I just love clever people.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts as Cindy and I prepare to be deployed to New Orleans. CIndy has never lived outside of the Northwest and I from So Cal, should be exciting.


AmberJ said...

Funny, KMJ and I were talking about this just this morning...

About 10 years ago when I first moved to the PNW I moved through those phases -- in order, no less! I had to move through them again when we moved to the South, but I started at #2, jumped to #4, then jumped from #6 back to #4 and camped out there until we moved back to PNW.

Now that we are (and have been for 6 years) back in the NW, I am a permanent resident of #7.