Culture shock

You may feel uncomfortable when you move to a new country. This is part of something called culture shock. It is a normal part of adjusting to a new place. Understanding the process can help you.

The picture above shows how people feel as they go through the stages of cultural adjustment. Let’s look at the stages of adjustment, including culture shock, in more detail.

1. The honeymoon phase

When you first arrive in the USA, you may feel happy and excited. You may have lots of goals and expectations for what will happen in your new life. You have probably been waiting to come to America for a long time. You may have heard lots of great things about the USA. You expect that you will quickly get a good job, have a nice house, and learn English. You may be nervous, but you look forward to all the new things in America.

2. The culture shock phase

During this time period, you may start to feel upset and sad. You may start to feel angry. You might feel scared or really miss your home country.

If you do not speak English, the culture shock phase can last a long time. To help you during this time, you should try to meet other people from your culture and find stores that sell your traditional food.

Signs of culture shock include:

  • helplessness
  • thinking that everything is dirty
  • feeling afraid
  • anger
  • boredom
  • sleeping too much

You may start to think that American culture is terrible or that you do not like anything about America. Please know that this is a common phase for all people living in new cultures. Eventually, you will move to the next phase. If you do not move on, and you still feel sad or angry, you may need some extra help, and you should talk to your caseworker or doctor about it. If you are a refugee, you have been through many hard things, and it is all right to need extra help.

3. The adjustment phase

After some time, you will hopefully move past the culture shock phase and you will begin to adjust to life in the USA. You start to understand the reality of what life will be like in a new country. You may decide to take a low-paying job because it will help your family. You will begin to learn English. You are probably starting to have a routine. Life begins to feel normal.

One common challenge during this time period is that your children may be adjusting to life in the USA more quickly than you are. This is very common, but there are things you can do to help your children stay connected to your home culture.

4. The integration phase

This is the final phase of cultural adjustment. During this time, America will begin to feel like home. You will start to feel like you belong here. You can now mix parts of American culture with parts of your culture. There may be things you really like about the United States and things you really treasure from your home country. You can easily navigate your daily life in the United States. You probably have some American friends and some friends who are also immigrants or refugees. Now is the time to continue to improve your education. You may choose to become an American citizen.

man being comforted
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We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.