We can describe culture shock as the physical and emotional discomfort one suffers when coming to live in another country or a place different from the place of origin. Often, the way that we lived before is not accepted as or considered as normal in the new place. Everything is different, for example, not speaking the language, not knowing how to use banking machines, not knowing how to use the telephone and so forth.
According to the U-curve of cultural adjustment (Rogers & Steinfatt, 1998/1999, p 214), culture shock has many phases. Each phase can be on-going or appear only at certain times. The first phase is the introductory phase. In this first stage, before you go away from old environment to new environment. Next is second phase. In this phase, the new arrival may feel euphoric and be pleased by all of the new things encountered. This time is called the "honey-moon" phase, as everything encountered is new and exciting. For instance, the first time I saw snow here, in Sweden I was very excited. On the last week of November, it had been raining all night. I could hear the sound of water pouring heavily on the roof. The heater at my home didn’t work well so I had to cover myself with 4 layers of blankets. When I woke up, the ground was all white covered with snow. I got up and went outside, my friends and I, to take some pictures in the snow and post those pictures on Facebook and set album name called “Culture shock!.” Then I went outside my house and I saw one guy that we didn't even know threw snowballs at us. So then my friends and I started throwing snowballs back at him. The first few days of snow make me and my Thai friends very excited about snow fall.
Then, the third stage presents itself (stress/shock phase). A person may encounter some difficult times and crises in daily life. For example, after I and my Thai friends enjoyed the snow in "honey-moon" phase we realized the difficulties because of snow fall. We usually go to University by our car but when snow fall the ice covered our car especially windows and windshields. We also had problem with frozen locks, we can’t open the door. But the worst thing was getting stuck in winter ice and snow happens to most of us eventually. Other example is communication difficulties may occur such as not being understood. In this stage, there may be feelings of discontent, impatience, anger, sadness, and feeling incompetence. This happens when a person is trying to adapt to a new culture that is very different from the culture of origin. Transition between the old methods and those of the new country is a difficult process and takes time to complete. During the transition, there can be strong feelings of dissatisfaction.
The fourth phase is characterized by gaining some understanding of the new culture. A new feeling of pleasure and sense of humor may be experienced. We may start to feel a certain psychological balance. The new arrival may not feel as lost and starts to have a feeling of direction. A person is more familiar with the environment and wants to belong. This initiates an evaluation of the old ways versus those of the new.
In the fifth phase, the person realizes that the new culture has good and bad things to offer. This stage can be one of double integration or triple integration depending on the number of cultures that the person has to process. This integration is accompanied by a more solid feeling of belonging. The person starts to define him/herself and establish goals for living.
The sixth phase is the phase that is called the "re-entry shock" or "own culture shock" (Woesler, 2009). This occurs when a return to the country of origin is made. One may find that things are no longer the same. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture (Huff, 2001). For example, some of the newly acquired customs are not in use in the old culture.
These phases are present at different times and each person has their own way of reacting in the phases of culture shock. As a consequence, some phases will be longer and more difficult than others. Many factors contribute to the duration and effects of culture shock (Christofi, Victoria, and Charles, 2007).
I realized that the symptoms of cultural shock can appear at different times. We can experience real pain from culture shock. It is a great opportunity for leaning and accepting new perspectives. Culture shock can make one develop a better understanding of oneself and stimulate personal creativity.