Stories of research, nutrition, and nature

Cultural adjustment

Okay, time for something a bit more theoretical! I wanted to analyze cultural adjustment right in the beginning of this adventure, since I might need it later on when I hit the crisis phase.

According to Lysgaard’s U-curve model, adjustment to a new culture goes through four phases:

  • Honeymoon: loving the new culture, noticing only the positive sides, being curious and interested in everything.
  • Crisis: phase of frustration when reality hits hard, noticing only the negative sides, feelings of incompetence, blaming other people for communication difficulties and misunderstandings.
  • Recovery: realizing that the culture isn’t going to change, and you just have to accept it.
  • Adjustment: understanding the new culture and taking the best out of it, living here and now.

Of course, the stages do not apply to everyone, their length varies individually, and people can go back and forth between them. I guess I should be in the honeymoon phase currently, and perhaps I am, but too early to tell. Things have been going pretty well so far, but I’m certainly not absolutely in love with everything. I also experienced a short bout of frustration and homesickness on my very first day here, but that’s probably normal due to being jet-lagged and having so many things to take care of. Anyway, I hope that my extensive acceptance and commitment training helps in adjustment 😉

The U-curve hypothesis has also been expanded to a W-curve to cover the return to home. Basically, the phases are the same: first you love everything (food, family, friends, the way things work), but then you realize that things either have changed or have not changed, and you may have changed (or not) as well. You also notice how peculiar some customs in your own culture are.

W-curve

I wonder how large part of the troubles people have with adjustment is related to the time of the year? For instance, if you go abroad in September in the Northern Hemisphere, winter and darkness could make the crisis phase even worse. I hope that the increasing amount of light here will make things easier for me during the spring.

Some practical things that I’ve encountered so far include different locks, taps, doors, and lack of metric system. These are pretty easy to get accustomed to. A bit harder is to develop a natural reaction to how-are-yous. And I think that once I get started at work on Monday, I will face many things that are more under the surface and difficult to recognize at first. But it will be interesting, that’s for certain!

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