Culture Shock at the Two Month Mark

It has been two months since we moved to Germany.  The second month flew past like a car driving 180 kilometers per hour on the autobahn.  Here might be some reasons that the second month went so quickly:

  1. Sleep deprivation.  Life gets a little hazy when you have been up at all hours of the night with a baby.  
  2. Trying to LIVE in Germany.  We have been really busy just trying to settle in and actually LIVE in Germany.  Bank accounts, cell phones, car registration and insurance, finding a pediatrician, finding a place to live, storing our belongings (because we can't find a place to live), learning the language, etc... 
  3. Culture Shock.  So I just googled "culture shock" and YUP - I have it.  I am currently in Stage 3 according to an article on
I had heard about culture shock, but I never really thought about it much or "defined it".  What I learned from googling culture shock is that - I am totally normal for having the feelings and emotions that I am having :) YEAH!!!!  Below is a short summary from the article.... (my comments are in Green)

Culture Shock = a disorientation experienced when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life.  

When you move to a new country, everything is unfamiliar; weather, landscape, language, food, dress, social roles, values, customs, and communication - basically, everything you're used to is no longer.  You'll find that the day unfolds differently, that business is conducted in a way that may be hard to understand, the stores are opened and closed at hours that you could never predict (UMMM YES!!!  Today we realized that the butcher shop might be closed on Wednesday's, but we still are not 100% sure....).  Your patterns are off-kilter, the smells, sounds, and tastes are unusual and you can't communicate - not even to buy a loaf of bread.  This is culture shock.  

Some Symptoms of Culture Shock

  • A feeling of sadness and loneliness
  • Feelings of anger, depression, vulnerability
  • Idealizing your own culture.... and / or getting annoyed with people in the new culture idealizing theirs at the expense of your home culture.
  • The smallest problems seem overwhelming
Stage 1:  The Honeymoon Stage - Like any new experience, there's a feeling of euphoria when you first arrive to a new country and you're in awe of the difference you see and experience.

Culture Shock can be different for each individual. My "official" Honeymoon Stage was when I visited Germany back in 1998.  I also experience a short Honeymoon Stage right when I arrive in Germany each time.  I am in awe that I am actually "here"!  The Honeymoon Stage never lasts long for me.

Stage 2:  The Distress Stage - Everything you're experiencing no longer feels new; in fact, it's starting to feel like a thick wall that's preventing you from experiencing things.  You feel confused, alone, and realize that the familiar support systems are not easily accessible.

This Stage is harder to define for me, I think I had this Stage in 2009, when we lived here for 6 months.  I might have also experienced this Stage from week 2 until week 6, but I quickly went from Stage 2 to Stage 3 below.

Stage 3:  Re-integration Stage - During this Stage, you start refusing to accept the differences you encounter.  You're angry, frustrated, and even feel hostile to those around you.  You dislike the culture, the language, the food.  You reject it as inferior.  You may even develop some prejudices towards the new culture.  Don't worry.  This is absolutely normal.  You're adjusting.  This is actually a pretty common reaction to anything new.

This should be re-labelled the ANGER Stage.  I am currently in this Stage :).  This is one reason why I am a little unsure if I should write any blog posts about the differences I am encountering.  The good news is that we have been blessed with so many new friends that have been praying for me and with me to help me through this Stage.

Stage 4:  Autonomy - This is the first stage in acceptance.  You start to rise above the clouds and finally begin to feel like yourself again.  You start to accept the differences and feel like you can begin to live with them.  You feel more confident and better able to cope with any problems that may arise.  You no longer feel isolated and instead you're able to look at the world around you and appreciate where you are.

I am hoping to enter into Stage 4 around January / February 2013.  It would be great if I could "emerge" sooner, but I won't put too much pressure on myself.

Stage 5:  Independence Stage - You are yourself again!  Finally!!!!  You embrace the new culture and see everything in a new, yet realistic light.  You feel comfortable, confident, and able to make decisions based on your own preferences.  You no longer feel alone and isolated.  You appreciate both the differences and similarities of your new culture.  You start to feel at home.

I will keep you posted on when Stage 5 gets here.  By then I will probably have a couple of months left in Germany before I enter into Stage 1 of Reverse Culture Shock when we move back to the US :)

* Diagram Adapted From -

This entry was posted in ,. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Culture Shock at the Two Month Mark

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow...honestly, I have never read anything much about culture shock, but having moved to Germany at the beginning of last year, I am astounded by how accurate this is!

    I went through about 6 months of hellish Stage 2 and 3 (plus what I now realize was depression made worse by some nasty medication side-effects), 6 months of blended Stages 3 and 4, and am now I think somewhere past the midpoint of Stage 4, blending into 5 (with the occasional touch of Stage 3 resentment). It feels unbelievably good to have read that and realize that all the tumultuous feelings are actually normal, ok and temporary. Thanks!

  2. Judi Fox says:

    Glad that reading this helped you. Moving in general is stressful and then add another language, culture, country and it is overwhelming! I am still hovering between stage 3 and 4. I like how you said "with an occasional touch of Stage 3 resentment". Maybe that is what I have. Thanks for your comment :)

Leave a Reply

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. I simply ask that you choose kindness and love to embrace your words and share respectfully and joyfully with others online. Thank you! Lots of Love!