The 4 Stages of Culture Shock

By January 30, 2020Swedish culture

Moving abroad can be an exciting experience! Many new impressions, unfamiliar surroundings and new people and activities. However, all these exciting new experiences might also lead to a feeling of being a little bit lost.

Culture shock is common among expats and people who have moved far away from home. It can be developed even after you have settled in and have become familiar with the norms and culture of your new home, Sweden for example!

A person experiencing culture shock usually moves through four stages: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and adaptation. And even though this order of stages is the most common, a person might find himself experiencing these stages in a slightly different order. Let's break them down!

1. Honeymoon

The first stage is usually characterized by an extremely positive feeling, almost euphoric. Everything is new and exciting! You might be thinking “This is the best decision I’ve ever made! Sweden is great and everything is really well organized! I can even find stores where I can buy local products from my country!”.

2. Frustration stage

During this phase, a strong feeling of dissatisfaction kicks in and the excitement quickly starts turning into discomfort. Impatience, anger, and sadness are all characteristics of this stage. Miscommunication and failure to understand gestures are a source of frustration, and even the simplest thing might be able to trigger you! For example “why is everyone so obsessed with the weather?” or “why do people use passive-aggressive notes instead of talking to each other?”

3. Adjustment stage

You slowly begin to gain a sense of direction and surely begin to feel more familiar and comfortable with the people, culture, food, and surroundings of your new environment. You might have also established some friendships that make you feel more like home! Everything starts getting in order and you are ready to move to the next phase. You have already started eating lunch at 12:00 and dinner at 18:00 as a real Swede!

4. Adaptation stage

Adaptation and acceptance. This is the final stage of the culture shock. You might not have gotten the hang of it completely, but you have accepted and adopted the customs, habits and cultural practices of your new home. This final stage contributes to your successful integration!

Cultural shock is a natural part of a cross-cultural experience that traveling and living abroad entails. Everyone experiences it. Going through the different stages can take weeks, months or years. If you feel like you need some help along the way, you can read more about our Swedish culture workshops here. Don’t forget to also follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts for some interesting facts and useful tips about living in Sweden!

Swedish for Professionals offers a monthly newsletter just for expats! Looking for great ideas to help you enjoy your community, delivered straight to your inbox? Don’t forget to sign up for the Swedish for Professionals Newsletter for Expats! We promise we will never send you spam – great content only! Sign up here.