Culture shock & adaptation
Intercultural encounters are often accompanied by similar psychological and social processes. The simplest form of an intercultural encounter is between a stranger and a new cultural environment. The stranger has a kind of “culture shock”.
Values that we acquire over the years are the basis for our consciousness and how we perceive things. These include rituals, traditions, symbols and heroes. If we now immerse ourselves in a culture that is foreign to us, we can try to adopt rituals from the new environment, but we are usually overwhelmed by them. We often hear: “Too many impressions at once.” This can sometimes lead to grief, a feeling of helplessness and hostility towards the new environment.
The 4 phases
People who live in a foreign culture, in a foreign country over a longer period of time, go through four phases.
The first phase is usually very short and is called “euphoria”. This is the joy and pleasure of discovering the new country or city. In the second phase we experience the culture shock, quite normal when everyday life begins. Phase 3 is the adaptation to the new environment, circumstances, values and the feeling of being integrated into the social network. In phase 4 we are usually in a stable condition.
After reaching this phase there is still the danger that a complete adaptation is not possible if the person feels discriminated against or left alone. The second possibility is that the person feels comfortable in both the one and the other environment. However, it is also possible that the stranger has adapted so well that he or she is almost considered a “local”.
The time frame in which the four phases take place varies. It can take three months or even a year. It is often very dependent on the person.