Culture shock is inevitable wherever you move to, and can be a painful process but there are ways of minimising it and making the best out of your new surroundings.
Stages of Adjustment
A number of experts who have studied the phenomenon have charted several stages to culture shock found in the experiences of most people who resettle in another culture. It can best be illustrated by the so-called W-curve.
Stage One, right after arrival, is characterized by initial euphoria and is also called “the honeymoon period.” In this period, everything is new, much of it exciting. You will be struck by the similarities between your homeland and Germany, as well as by the things that seem to be more efficient, that work better here. This period can last from a few weeks to a few months, but it is almost inevitable that it will eventually take a downward spin.
Stage Two is characterized by disenchantment, irritability, confusion, maybe even harsh resentment towards Germans and all things German. Suddenly, differences that you didn’t even notice before or that may have seemed charming during Stage One become sources of frustration, even aggravation. They also take on an importance they would not have under normal circumstances, as you begin to feel trapped in a strange and foreign culture.
Stage Two is what people usually identify as “culture shock.” It’s the most hazardous, because you’ll find the irritability seeping into all your relationships, including your marriage and family life, along with the workplace. You may even suffer health problems, often those with a psychosomatic basis. While in this unpleasant stage, the best thing you can do to boost your lagging spirits is to remember that almost everyone goes through this to some extent, and it usually leads into a more pleasant third stage.
Stage Three, then, involves a gradual adjustment to the German way of life. This is often called the recovery phase. Slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, you find yourself becoming comfortable with your life and job here. You stop generalizing about Germans and Germany and see unique qualities. You may discover changes within yourself, the way you do things – and sometimes even concede that these changes are in fact for the better. The huge problems from Stage Two shrink in significance, or may even disappear altogether. Much to your surprise, you are actually starting to fit in.
Stage Four, the final stage, is adaptation or biculturalism. When you reach this stage, you know that you’ve truly arrived. You have not given up your own identity, but you now find that your personality has somehow expanded. You can function with confidence and comfort in two cultures: the one you brought from your homeland and the culture you find here. Plus, you start finding the new culture more and more rewarding, more pleasant.
Minimizing Culture Shock
Ask a friend.
Reach out to a friend or relative that has moved abroad before. Ask them for any tips, tricks, how they dealt with culture shock etc. It’s good to know that you have someone who understands your situation when you need to reach out.
Research the culture, history, things you need to know etc. (Clickable links to other sections on the site)
In this online world, it is easy to meet like- minded people in a similar situation. Be a part of our community and lookout on our various social media channels for local expats near you. Join our monthly International Stammtisch to stay connected with the international community and learn about new exciting things.
Stay in touch.
Long distance friendships and relationships can be tough so it is important to find the best way to stay in touch. Set up Skpe calling, Facetime, Whatsapp group, Facebook messenger. Regularly reaching out to your friends and family is a good way to stop feeling homesick.
The only way to really immerse yourself in German culture is to speak the language. It is definitely possible to live without speaking fluent German, but learning is a good way to make you feel less like an outsider. Start with the basics and try to find classes that suit you. Classes are also a great way to connect with other expats.