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 maybe even 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 really happy about it doesn’t mean you won’t face difficulties along the way. Leaving your home country might leave you feeling a bit lost and lonely, unsure of your place in your new world, or feeling like you’re struggling to fit in and learn.
These feelings could be attributed to “culture shock,” and they’re a very normal part of living in a new environment. 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, and everyone experiences these phases differently, and at different times. If you have moved with other family members, you may find yourselves having very different emotional experiences as you adjust to your new home.
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 could fade, leaving 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 mercifully begin to 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 and perhaps 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 not mean that you understand every single aspect of your new life, and it is not 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 idea that things are different. You can have an amazing experience in your new home without totally understanding it, and at this point, you likely have enough knowledge and skill to navigate most situations with ease.
Adjustment can be difficult, but as you learn and adapt to your new life, 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 day to day tasks 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!