People typically go through four clear steps of cultural adjustment when relocating to a new country.
The first step is known as the Honeymoon Phase and can be described as:
—Initial Delight and Exhilaration
A new arrival can expect to be intrigued by all of the sights and sounds, and all sorts of new sensory input, of their new home. It can be fun to visit cultural sites, and experience the location, as a tourist would, with superficial experiences. A newcomer might find amusement in similarities and differences to his/her former home, and be motivated to learn and integrate into the new environment. During this phase, many people feel immune to the negative effects of culture shock.
We’ve been in Beijing for 10 days and I progressed very quickly through the honeymoon phase. Upon arrival, I was excited to see how things had changed, as well as, remained the same. The international area in which we live is home to people from all over the world and it is easy to find familiar restaurants and products, though the costs can be prohibitive. The number of convenient establishments off all sorts has more than doubled, our new home is beautiful and we are settling in; but I quickly moved on to Stage 2 of adjustment.
The Second Step is known as: “Culture Shock” and can be described as:
—Exasperation and Loathing.
Perhaps my experience is due to the fact that we are not entirely new to Beijing. We lived here from 2006-2009. (You can read about our adventures here.) I already know the positives and negatives of living here and for now, I see mostly the negatives. Going straight from our previous post to our new post means we missed our respite in our true home. I did not expect to miss it as much as I do.
The novelty of living a new place has worn off, and the differences between what we are comfortable with, and what we are living with, are becoming increasingly more clear. Small difficulties feel like catastrophes and they are numerous. So far: we’ve had a power outage, poor circuitry in the outlets of the bedrooms, spotty wifi, a flood in the kitchen- caused by taking showers on the second floor, a broken washing machine, numerous cases of missed translation, and Westley the 3 Legged Wonderdog has escaped twice! In a country so foreign to Americans, small hiccups can feel enormous and insurmountable. The language difference, alone, is cause for numerous blood pressure raising moments every day.
Lucky for me, I know that these phases are just that: phases, and are, by definition, temporary. I know that this stressful period will pass- hopefully sooner than later. I remember that I loved many things about living here last time and look forward to getting back to that feeling of comfort. I’m already venturing out of my comfort zone and making new friends, and am happy to be back
I’m eagerly awaiting the time when I reach Stage 3: Gradual Adaptation, Amusement, and the All Important- Perspective. I’ll be sure to write about it when I get there.