So, you made it through the lowest point, culture shock, and you are on your way back up. The adjustment stage goes through fits and bursts. One moment you feel like you are back in the pit of cultural despair and the next moment you feel like you have lived in your adopted culture for years. Adjustment is also about accepting the things you cannot change. There will be certain foods and customs that you will always forget or even dislike. As long as you gave them a try that is what counts.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
My first winter in Mongolia was physically and mentally rough. Not only were the days shorter they were also brutally cold. On top of that, my ger chores doubled in order to keep my home warm 24/7. The winter means everyone else in the community was doing the same thing as me. At the end of the day there was little time or energy to get together and hang out with friends. I was left feeling isolated. However, after my first winter things picked up again. There were fewer chores and more free time. The weather warmed up and the promise of summer lifted everyone’s moods. Going into my second year of life in Mongolia I was better prepared and knew what to expect.
Culturally, I spent my culture shock stage feeling frustrated and irritated with my co-workers. Why were they always late? We scheduled our meeting for 8 AM but it is pushing 9:30. Seasoned volunteers had warned me about this cultural norm but it took me six months to believe it. In the adjustment stage, I planned for late starting meetings. I would use the time to speak with other teachers and students. I calmed down and did not allow the late start times to ruin the rest of my day. And the result? I was a much happier person. Of course, I continue to struggle with other things and I felt more integrated into my community. But as the days moved forward, I struggled less and found my successes piling up.
The adjustment stage is about re-calibration. You are inevitably a changed person after living in a new culture. Reconciling those changes with who you are and navigating your way through a new culture is the key to a successful adjustment. Keep an eye out for my final post – Part 4: Integration.
Have you survived culture shock and adjusted to a new culture? When did you realize things started looking up for you?