Living abroad is a huge and, hopefully, exciting life change. Travel gives us the opportunity to expand our world view, meet new people from other cultures, and change our beliefs. If you’ve moved here to Sweden from somewhere else, you already know that. However, just because you’ve chosen to move and might be excited doesn’t mean you won’t face difficulties. Leaving your home country may leave you feeling lost and lonely, unsure of your place in the world, or feeling like you’re struggling to fit in.
What Is This?
These feelings could be attributed to “culture shock,” and they’re a normal part of living somewhere new. Culture shock might set in right away, or sneak up on you by setting in months after your arrival. Yes, you could be feeling confidently settled in and still experience it. Luckily, we are here to help you navigate this frustrating and sometimes frightening situation.
The Phases of Culture Shock
Culture shock has four phases- honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance. Everyone experiences these phases differently, and at different times. If you have moved with other family members, you could have very different emotional experiences as you adjust.
The first phase, the “honeymoon,” occurs when you have just arrived and feel positive and excited about your new home, the new language, new food and people. If you’re on a short trip, you may never leave this phase. However, as these new experiences begin to be more commonplace, the excitement may fade. This leaves you vulnerable to stage two.
After the honeymoon comes frustration. This is the most difficult aspect of culture shock. You might feel very tired at the prospect of tackling even small tasks; after all, it’s wearisome to do the grocery shopping when you aren’t sure what the signs and products say or don’t understand the habits of people around you. Small setbacks may feel magnified during this time, and you might experience loneliness or a longing to go back to familiar settings.
These experiences are opportunities to practice a bit of self-care, give yourself a little quiet time, and reflect on what is was that frustrated you. Was it a random small mistake, such as misplacing something? Or was it an event you can exercise some control over, like learning what the signs at your local shops say so that the next time you go out, you can feel a little more in control of your day?
As you become more comfortable in your new home and begin figuring out the unfamiliar aspects of life, frustration will fade and be replaced by “adjustment.” Everything will begin to become easier- getting around, accessing resources, and navigating new relationships will be less of a strain. Perhaps by this time you will be able to speak, or at least understand, some of the local language.
The final stage of culture shock is acceptance. This does’t mean that you understand every single aspect of your new life, and it is’t really a passive behavior. It might take months or even years to get there, but in the acceptance stage, you will be able to make peace with the differences. You can have an amazing experience in your new home without totally understanding it, and you likely have enough knowledge to navigate most situations with ease.
Adjustment can be difficult, but you will adapt, and living in a new country will become and easier and rewarding experience. Picking up the language will help you by giving you the ability to approach each day with confidence. Swedish for Professionals offers tailored, engaging language courses and culture workshops that can help ease the burden of integration into Swedish society by providing you the tools you need to learn and use the language every day.
Check out our website to learn more about our classes and workshops and see how they can work for you!