As you adjust to a new culture, you may go through different periods where you feel different ways. Part of the process is known as “culture shock.” Understanding about culture shock will help you accept the feelings and make it easier to adjust.
The picture above shows how people feel as they go through the stages of cultural adjustment. Let’s look at the stages 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 earn 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 refugees from your culture and find stores that sell your traditional food.
Signs of culture shock include:
- thinking that everything is dirty
- feeling afraid
- 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 about it. As 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 and refugees. Now is the time to continue to improve your education. You may choose to become an American citizen.