Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cultural Adjustment

There is an interesting article entitled Cross-Cultural Conflict and Adjustment about the emotional roller coaster that someone moving countries gets onto. It's taken from a book by Deena R. Levine and Mara B. Adelman, entitled Beyond Language: Cross Cultural Communication. I have to admit that I haven't read the book yet, but the article was interesting.

It describes the adjustment to life in a new country as a number of stages. The following is an extract from the article:

  1. Honeymoon period: Initially many people are fascinated and excited by everything in the new culture. The newcomer is elated to be experiencing a new culture. Interestingly, this level of elation may not be reached again.

  2. Culture shock: The individuals are immersed in new problems: housing, transportation, employment, shopping, and language. Mental fatigue results from continuously straining to understand the new language and culture.

  3. Initial adjustment: Everyday activities such as housing and shopping are no longer major problems. The visitors may not yet be fluent in the spoken language, but they can now express their basic ideas and feelings.

  4. Mental isolation: Individuals have been away from their family and good friends for a long time and may feel lonely. Many cannot express themselves as well as they could in their native language. Frustration and sometimes a loss of self-confidence result. Some individuals remain at this stage, particularly if they haven't been able to find a job.

  5. Acceptance and integration: A routine (e.g., work, business, or school) has been established. The newcomers have become accustomed to the habits, customs, foods, and characteristics of the people in the new culture. They feel comfortable with friends, associates, and the language in the new country.

These points refer to learning a new language and, in spite of small differences between American-English and British-English, I think that having a common language must make our integration into the US considerably easier than it would otherwise be. Nevertheless, I know that for all of us, our emotional states keep changing with every turn of the tide, but we rest assured in the hope that we will successfully integrate.

Thanks to Michael for telling me about this article and book.

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