Last semester, I was in a class called Intercultural Communication. There was one chapter about culture shock and adaptation when a person moves to another country. It was kind of weird when I read about behaviors and symptoms one can experience and then I realized that I went through the same exact stages. I “just” followed the scheme of experiencing culture shock.
What is culture shock?
Culture shock describes the anxiety and problems a person goes through in the process of adapting to a new culture. There are several stages to it: the Honeymoon Stage, the Frustration Stage, the Adjustment Stage, and the Acceptance Stage.
Here is a fast look of how my stages looked like!
The honeymoon Stage
My experiences were not as extreme because I already knew the United States and I was familiar with a lot of things. Yet, I remember how everything seemed unreasonably great. A trip to Walmart or Target was such a unique experience which I can barely understand now. It is funny that back then everything that was different was exciting: drive-through ATMs, the sunny weather, the huge amount of ketchup bags you get for free at a fast food restaurant, water for free, ice baths, spicy chicken Thursdays, doubled-spaced essays, chapel, Cheetos, etc.
The Frustration Stage
This was about two to three months in. It sometimes comes back every now and then whenever I struggle with being foreign and I can’t ask for help. I was very frustrated when I had to apply for a Social Security number. Nobody could tell me what the process looked like and people on campus just sent me from office to office. I had problems explaining what I was looking for and it required a lot of documents that I needed to print out and apply for.
But also, easy situations such as going to a Mexican restaurant was a challenge at the beginning. While everyone knew what to order, I had to google every word on the menu to find something that I like to eat. And I wasn’t the only one frustrated. There were times I had to ask my roommate five times if she could repeat herself because I could not understand what she said.
The Adaptation Stage and Acceptance Stage
Both stages are self-explanatory. For me, they show every day now. Finally I feel like I can blend it. I sometimes even forget that things used to be different to me. Making those adaptions, I can finally identify 12 pm as midday and 12 am as midnight (still doesn’t make sense to me, but I accepted it). I know the American hymn better than my own. When I have to type a single-spaced paper, I get really upset. I say movies instead of cinema – the word we learned in school. And I finally pronounce T-Mobile the right way, so people won’t make fun of me anymore. Praying with my team mates makes me more comfortable now (before I have never done that in my life) and I learned how to two-step and line dance. All in all, I would say I make a pretty good American German.