An Expert?? No...And YET-- I have experienced it!
Important to know about?? YES YES YES & again YES!
So I want to share "my take" on this phenomenon...
As an expat, I would say, this is an area to prepare yourself, your family, your friends, & your support network. There are articles, blogs, and books that you can read on this subject.
First, to understand Culture Shock, it is good to understand "Culture". Basically culture is "how" we live our daily lives. It is the customs and cues that are interwoven in our surroundings. When we are removed from what is normal, we lose those cues and anchors in our lifestyle. The result many times becomes anxiety, confusion, and a sense of being "lost".
In the 1960's this phenomenon was identified and named "culture shock". There is a cycle or stages in the progression of moving to a place of adjustment to a new culture or environment. Understanding at least the basics of this reaction, can help you know that you are not really "lost" and helps you also avoid some major pitfalls.
Warning!! Pitfalls...When does this happen??
Mainly when people are not prepared. When people have ignored the need for adjustment to the change and have not created a strategy to help them through it.
Let me tell a little of my own story here...
As a wife of 30 years and a mother of 26 years, grocery shopping and cooking was definitely a part of my life for many years! When I moved to an Asian country (to live and not just visit), I found myself so overwhelmed the first few months there that I couldn't imagine cooking a full meal. Grocery shopping was so different (kilograms vs pounds; baht vs dollars; etc). I knew to be kind and patient with myself, and I knew to keep things simple as I adjusted. By the time I was into my 2nd year there, I was buying vegetables from street vendors; using a counter top oven to bake; teaching some Asian friends how to make American cookies; and had fixed meals and invited people over for dinner gatherings. Adjustment can happen!!
Isolation is one of the big pitfalls. When the culture shock seemed to hit the hardest, I found myself wanting to isolate in my apartment when I was not working. I knew I had to be careful. Isolation is an enemy to adjustment. Now...let me balance this...my apartment was my haven. And in the midst of the work of adjustment to the new culture, I needed a haven where I could relax and rest at times. And at the same time, I knew I had to make friends and become part of this new life around me. That meant being uncomfortable at times. That meant putting out the work to be with people and be out and about the city. I learned to balance the work of adjustment with time to rest and relax in my haven.
So if you are thinking of making a first time international move, making another international move, or have a friend making such a move...explore this resource book:
The Expert Expat: A Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad
Here is an excerpt from this book:
John and Cindy write about their adventures, observations, and other nuggets from living in another nation. Their residence is in SE Asia.