Moving to a different country may cause you to experience what is familiarly known as a “culture shock”. This is a feeling of confusion and uncertainty that you might have from experiencing a different culture than your own. It might happen when you move to another country and get involved in another cultural setting, especially for temporary and intense moves like a semester abroad.

There are many advantages of having experienced a culture shock: Personal growth and a better understanding of yourself and a new culture are two

It is important to be aware of what a culture shock is because it might prepare you to meet challenges and feelings that you face while adapting to a new culture. By being aware of the symptoms, you can better handle the situation and adjust and adapt more effectively.

The Five Stages of Culture Shock

Culture shock can often be seen as a W-curve, symbolizing the ups and downs of adapting to a new country and culture. These are the five stages of culture shock:

  1. Honeymoon Stage: Everything is fascinating and new. You feel happy and excited. In this face people often experience the differences as positive and might be eager and willing to learn and cooperate.
  2. Culture Shock: This happens when the excitement passes and reality feels cold and strange. In this face people often struggle to understand the other culures way of living and their values. Normal feelings associated with this stage might be anxiety, frustration and sadness.
  3. Stage of Adjustment: Positive feelings start coming back. The culture eventually becomes more familiar and understandable. People tend to gain a more practical and objective perspective of the new culture.

4. Mental Isolation: Happens when you go back home. Things have changed and you do not feel at home anymore. People tend to feel caught between two worlds or two lives that no longer exist. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are normal at this stage.

5. Adaption: Eventually you get to know the new culture and you adapt to it. You feel comfortable and at home.

A feeling of frustration or loneliness are normally associated with culture shock

How to handle it

Culture shock can be triggered by different things. Moving to Nepal, you might experience language barriers, different food than what you are used to and social norms that varies greatly from the ones at home. This is completely normal, and nothing to be afraid of. It can happen to anyone.

Experiencing a new culture will enrich you

And luckily there are ways to handle it. Many people have experienced culture shocks. By learning from their experience you might be able to handle it better yourself.

Searching online you will find a lot of people highlighting the importance of leaving your comfort zone and being open to new experiences as an important strategy. Learning some local words and norms can also help you getting to know the people, the local society and the culture better, and in this way disarm it.

Us feeling happy and exited learning about a new culture. This is from the Hindu color festival Holi

Getting to know the place you live in different ways will make it less overwhelming. Coming to Pokhara for example, Lake Side might feel big and unpredictable.

However, you will quickly learn that it is quite small. You’ll eventually know the street numbers, see the same people everyday and find your favourite spots around town.

You will end up feeling comfortable and at home

The advantages of experiencing a culture shock is that you will end up enriched with personal growth and an understanding of different cultures.

Coming Bach Home

What might be surprising to someone is that when being abroad for a while, you might also experience a culture shock coming back home. It is normal that you, after adapting to another culture and way of living, might see things in a different way when you come back home.

This change of perspective might cause you to feel differences within yourself and society around you. This might be just as challenging as experiencing culture shock in another country.

However, it is a nice learning experience to reflect in how your perspective change after coming back home from another country. Balancing between two cultures can be challenging but you might also gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the world.

Eventually you will adapt and make friends. Leaving the country you have gotten to know might be just as challenging as adapting to a new culture!

To sum up, culture shocks are completely normal to experience when going abroad for a longer period of time. However, it can still be challenging. Being open and stepping out of your comfort zone are big steps in the right direction to tackling culture shock.


– Bertine