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How to deal with a culture shock

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A culture shock is a well-known problem when moving internationally. Because of this, it could take a long time before you, your partner or your family feel at home at your new international destination. How can you prepare yourself for this? 


Experts say it is important to recognize this shock and realize it is just a phase you'll have to go through. To help you with this process, we have described the 5 general phases of a culture shock. For each phase we give you a few tips and tricks to get through them properly, so you will feel at home in your new hometown as quickly as possible.

Free Ebook: How to deal with a culture shock

Phase 1: The honeymoon phase

During your honeymoon you are so in love with your partner that you can't see a single flaw in them. This is often what happens in an international move as well. You just arrived in your new hometown and you're filled with enthusiasm. At that moment you love everything: your new home, the people, the environment, the work, the food etc. This phase usually lasts a few weeks. 

To do: Nothing except enjoying all these new experiences!

Phase 2: Rejection phase

The first cracks in your love for your new hometown are starting to appear during this phase. Slowly but surely you start to see more and more differences between there and your old home. Even though you don't want to admit it, these differences are starting to bother you. Often a miscommunication at work or in your new circle of friends makes you long for your homeland. Anger, frustration, loneliness and a feeling of being misunderstood are very normal during this phase. It can feel like it lasts for an eternity, but in reality the rejection phase only lasts several weeks to a few months.

To do: As hard as it is, accept that things are simply different in your new hometown. If you keep comparing it to how things used to go, the feeling of being homesick will only intensify. Talk to local colleagues and friends about the differences and about your feelings, so they might understand you better. However, don't try to force your way of thinking upon them. If needed, adjust your (unrealistic) expectations of your new homeland to avoid disappointment.

Phase 3: General adjustment phase

Even though there are still small things bothering you, you are starting to feel more at home. Adjusting to the daily life is taking less and less effort to do. But despite everything you still feel like an outsider. This can have multiple reasons, like not having a connection with the locals.

To do: Don't push yourself too much. Accept that it takes time to fully adjust and allow yourself enough time to do so. Realise that building friendships takes time and it's important to keep talking about what you are going through.

Phase 4: Thorough adjustment phase

After all the previous frustrations you finally feel properly settled in your new environment. Your work and family are back on top. Life is back to normal, or so it seems. But sometimes there is still a nagging feeling at the back of your head. Especially because of frustrations you notice the cultural differences again and it upsets you. You try your hardest to accept these differences, but sometimes you long for how things used to be.

To do: Even though it might be easier to get mad in some situations, during this phase it is important to figure out why the locals act the way they do. Immerse yourself into your new culture. Look at it with an open mind and don't be prejudiced. Realise your old culture has flaws as well. And definitely don't expect the locals to adjust to you.

Phase 5: Adjustment phase

Finally, the storm has settled and you have arrived at the final stage of the culture shock. During this phase you truly feel like a part of the society, and you've even taken over some of its habits. You now see your old culture has good and bad sides as well. The distance between your old home and your new one becomes bigger by the minute. You are not the same person you once was and are now able to look at both cultures with an objective view.

To do: Nothing. Just enjoy life every day and keep being amazed. Amazed by all the beautiful differences everywhere in the world.


As hard as it may seem, always realise that it's just a phase and it will pass. A culture shock is very normal and happens to the best of us. Even though we have listed the phases in chronological order, it can happen you keep shifting between certain phases. This is very normal as well and has been experienced by many expats. If you can't get through the phases properly or it takes too much of a toll on you mentally or physically, then always consult a doctor or therapist. They are glad to help you make the process of settling in your new environment easier. 

ebook culture shock

Free e-book
How to deal with a culture shock

International relocation requires adaptability of you and your family. Experts give tips about the 5 stages in a culture shock, so you are well prepared.