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Your Spanish Psychologist.

Your Spanish Psychologist to help you in your adjustment to Spain. Spanish Psychology in English language

The culture shock.
Thursday, February 26, 2009 @ 5:36 PM

Living in a foreing country is very challenging. In the first year, almost everyone experiences “culture shock”  in some degree. This term refers to the feelings and reactions people have when,at the beggining, they are spending a long period of time in a very different culture from theirs own. In this situation people feel like displaced. They may go trought periods of frustation, adjustment and even depression. Many of them,who experience it, don´t even realize that they are sufferig from it. All they know is that everything is very difficult in their new home.

If you are experiencing culture shock you can be surprised worrying and complaining about all aspects of life (food, weather, people..). You may worry about minor ailments and pains. People in this situation often become frustated and angry over minor problems, and some even refuse to learn the languaje. Overall, they feel helpless and homesick.

 Culture shock is caused by unfamiliarity with the new country, by nor being able to speak the new language fluently or understand the many new idioms, and by nor knowing how to behave in an unfamiliar culture.


Most people go through similar stages of cultural adjustment although the stages be longer or shorter for different people. The stages are the following ones:


1) The honeymoon stage: During the first stage the foreigner often feels excited, with enthusiasm. Everything is new and interesting. The foreigner usually is very positive about the culture  and  overwhelmed with impressions. He/She probably finds the culture exotic and is fascinated by it. Natives are friendly and helpful and the future looks promising. As a foreigner you will probably experience a lot of attention from people around you. In this situation you wont confront the culture.


People in this stage are delightful to work with, but in their enthusiasm to please, they frequently nod or smile to indicate understanding when in fact they didn't understand at all. When their misunderstandings mount up, they are likely to experience the second stage of cultural adjustment.


 2) The hostility stage. In this stage the individual begins to interact with the culture and finds the behaviour of the people inusual and unpredictable. He /she begins to dislike the culture, to criticize it and reacts to the behaviours. School, languaje, shopping, working, dealing with the climate...everything is difficult. Things that were simple back home require more effort in the new country. It seems hard to make friends and, at this point, foreigners may begin to think that local people are unfriendly. Homesickness begins, and along with it complaints about the new country.

This is the stage in which you suffer the “culture shock”.  At this moment you may feel anxiety, frustation, anger and sometimes depression. You may feel lonely and begin to withdraw... Sleep patterns may be disrupted.

People may be upset because, although they had study and spoken the new language in their country, at the end they realize they can´t deal with it as well as they thought.


You can react to this frustation by rejecting the new environment. And you can think that the problems are caused because of you (“ I don´t know how to do it”) or because of them (“If i feel bad is because they are not trying to help me”). Some of the hostilities are translated excessive fear and mistrust into fits of anger over minor frustration, of the host country population, frequent  lack of interest, lack of motivation, and, at worst, complete withdrawal.


This is a painful, difficult stage, but it does not last. As each situation is "figured out," there is a sense of relief and accomplishment which leads foreigners to the third stage.


3) The humour stage. Foreigners begin to use the language more fluently, so comunication with locals becomes easier. They start to understand more of the behaviour of the people. Customs and traditions become clearer, and slowly the situation passes from imposible to hopeful. You start to feel more comfortable at the new environment. Minor misunderstanding that were stressful in previous stage, become manegable now.  You may feel more relaxed and regain your sense of humour and, in this situation, you are able to manage easier the complexity of everything.


4) The home stage. Occurs when the foreigner not only retains allegiance to his/her home culture, but also “feels at home” in his/her newly acquired one. He/she enjoys being in the culture and functions easily in it. Even may prefers certains culture behaviours to that of his/her own culture, so may adopt some of them. At the end he/she has successfully adjusted to the norms so should feel proud of him/herself for achieving the ability to live successfully in two cultures.


While some people go through these stages more quickly or more slowly, most people go through all of the stages. Sometimes people experience these stages in a slightly  different order. The most important thing for a newcomer to remember is that cultural  adjustment is both a natural process and a temporary one. Eventually most people feel comfortable in the new culture. People often do not fully understand culture shock until they return home to their country, when they are surprised to see their own country with new eyes.


 Although culture adjustment takes place every time a person moves to another country, with each move the shock usually lessens.


 So, may be you feel that you are suffering one of these situations...If you feel you didn´t get your adjustment to this new culture, you could tell and share with us what is what you find difficult, so, in view of your experience, i will be able to orientate and to advice all of you in your way of your adjustment.



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Jacqui said:
Friday, February 27, 2009 @ 5:01 PM

What a good summary of the various stages of emotions. Having been here 9 months now I can identify with all the stages listed and I'm happy to say we are now in stage 4 - Spain is our home and although we still have difficulties sorting things out we no longer find them daunting as we did some months ago, we find we can understand so much more and really enjoy getting involved with local events.

When we were planning to move to Spain we decided we wanted somewhere that was still very Spanish. Within the first couple of months I really had concerns that we had made a mistake and should have moved somewhere with a lot of other English people. Several months later I am so happy we chose as we did.

It takes time and it takes effort but it is so worth it!


Marta said:
Monday, March 2, 2009 @ 3:38 PM

Hi Jacki!

congratulations! I´m glad that you have overcome successfully the whole process. It is really hard and you must feel very proud of you, for your strength, for not to desist, for your big effort... Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us.



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