I first heard the term cross cultural adjustment when I studied abroad in college. Sitting in a pre-departure seminar the words flashed across the screen paired with a squiggly graphic, a la the one I designed below, that outlined the “cycle”.
What is Cross Cultural Adjustment?
It is a way to explain the different emotions you will experience after moving to a new culture. Whether you are there for a semester abroad, a new job, or a big move, the cycle of cross cultural adjustment is something everyone experiences. There are four main parts to the cycle and in this series I’ll dedicate a post to each one. Part 1 is about “The Honeymoon”.
Imagine falling in love, winning the lottery, or that the soundtrack to your life is the song “Everything is Awesome“…that is how the honeymoon stage feels. When you move to a different culture things are new and exciting. Ordinary tasks like grocery shopping or doing laundry suddenly have sparkle and charm. Have you ever spent two hours at the grocery store picking up every strange new item you see? What about marveling over hand washing all of your laundry? Yeah, stuff like that happens during the honeymoon stage. You’ll find yourself trying things because you want to experience everything this new place has to offer! Seeking out new foods, places, and people is typical of the honeymoon stage because you still feel like a tourist in your new culture. That tourist mentality is helpful when you first move somewhere. It helps you make friends and acquaint yourself with new surroundings.
I’ve been through the honeymoon stage twice. The first time when I spent a semester abroad in Sweden and the second time when I moved to Mongolia for two years. I’ll share a story that best illustrates the honeymoon stage:
I learned to chop wood in Mongolia. The first time I took the ax in hand I remember feeling a giddy nervousness. Was I going to be any good at this? How cool do I look? But, when I brought the ax down onto the tree stump it bounced off leaving only a slight indentation on the surface. I tried again. This time getting the ax partially lodged into the tree stump and with each successive swing I pushed the ax through until I finally chopped the stump in half. I felt so proud! I had done it. I was a lumberjack! Except…this quaint task – chopping wood – was going to become a weekly chore. Without wood my ger would have been freezing.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon stage and all of the wonderful feelings associated with it do not last forever. One day you will wake up and see your new home through a different perspective. I’ll talk about that in my next post – Part 2: Culture Shock.
Have you ever moved abroad? What exciting stories do you have about doing laundry or grocery shopping?