Culture Shock – Tips and Symptoms of Culture Shock

Culture shock is a very real challenge for many employees who relocate for work. It’s a physical and emotional discomfort that can have a negative impact on both people relocating for work and their families. Every person moving to a new country or city will likely experience some level of culture shock during their relocation experience. It’s important to remember that culture shock is normal and that it’s natural during a move.

In the beginning, many people relocating for work will enter a honeymoon stage. There are so many exciting and new things to take in and it’s easy to feel excited about the move. The honeymoon stage can quickly move towards a hostility stage, which usually happens when the employee encounters some problems adapting to their new culture and begin to think negatively about the entire experience. Things can quickly become less exciting and a lot more stressful. It’s important to plan as much as possible. This will help limit potential issues that will cause stress.

Depression is another common emotion experienced during an employee relocation and it can be a very serious health concern that should be dealt with properly. Negative feelings about a new home can often make employees and the families feel lonely and disconnected. During the early stages of a relocation there is a lot of anticipation and excitement, which can transition to boredom once the initial thrill of relocating goes away. This boredom can create challenges in both an expat’s professional and personal life. Getting involved in the community and exploring new surroundings can often be a great way to fight boredom and depression.  Remember, major life transitions will take some time to set in and things will get better.

Eventually, many of the relocating employees we work with will reach a stage of acceptance. During this time, they gain a strong understanding of the new culture and elements they enjoy. After time, friendships will develop with other expats and locals, this provides an excellent opportunity to better understand one’s surroundings. It can take a few months to reach an acceptance stage after a move.

Everyone will react to a relocation differently and the impact culture shock plays will vary greatly from person to person. Some stages may last longer for some than others in the same boat. Some of the most common signs of culture shock include:

  • Boredom
  • Feel sad and lonely
  • Sleeping and eating more than usual
  • A lessening urge for physical activity
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Increased level of irritation
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Hostile feelings towards the new culture and people
  • A decreased level of confidence
  • An increase in obsessive behaviour and patterns

Relocating employees must be mindful of both their mind and physical well-being during all stages of the relocation process. Giving a proper amount of time to adjust is important as is ensuring you seek help when it’s needed. Here are some ways we’ve seen people combat culture shock:

  • Try and stay busy; focus on ways to keep the mind active
  • Learn about the culture and learn new languages
  • Try and make the apartment or house feel like home
  • Build some physical exercise into a day-to-day routine
  • Expats should find places in their new city that remind them of home
  • Try to continue following a regular, daily routine and stick with it
  • It’s okay to be confused; seek help when needed
  • Keep an open mind and don’t overly judge cultures and people
  • Accept that an employee relocation can be hard, and everyone goes through some level of culture shock
  • Keep in touch with family and friends back home
  • Learn the etiquette and nuances of the new culture
  • Embrace the adventure
  • Get out there and build new relationships and network connections
  • Keep busy with new hobbies and ones previously enjoyed back home

The first few weeks and months are an incredibly important part of an employee relocation and culture shock is a reason why some fail. Realizing that everyone experiences some level of discomfort during a move will make the transition easier. Our experienced relocation experts have helped professionals moving for work build a strategy that suits their individual needs and concerns. Our relocating individuals and families have benefited form our Settling-in Assistance and Area Orientations, which have helped to ensure smooth, and easy transitions to new destinations. An employee relocation can be both exciting and intimidating, and Welcomehome’s services can help to create and promote positive and successful experiences for all individuals and families.