Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The New Global Student and the Stages of Culture Shock

Have I mentioned this book?

It is a very interesting book and speaks to a lot of what I hold important (ie, an international education, which can be achieved in a variety of manners, is a gift we give our children). I find the author's style a bit . . . well, sales-y at times. As though her editor said, "This is all good information, but no one will ever read it unless you present it as if you were a motivational speaker." But if you can sort of ignore that, it is worth reading.

She never does address how she was able to just decide to live in Argentina. I lived in Argentina. We needed visas in Argentina.

But nevermind.

What she does discuss that is relevent to the expat is a fellow named Dr. Dennis White, a psychologist who specializes in the problems of reintegrating into one's own culture. (You didn't think it would be so, but it is . . . bwha ha ha!)

Anyhoo . . .

What I liked was that Maya Frost, who wrote the book above, lists what Dr. White calls the four stages of culture shock:

1. Excitement and Enthusiasm (The Honeymoon Period)
2. Irritability (The Honeymoon's Over)
3. Adaptation (Reality Check)
4. Biculturalism (The Fun Begins)

These stages can (and in my experience DO) repeat themselves over the course of one's gig(s) abroad. But I think of them as coming in waves, and each one is successively smaller as the expat settles into the new country.

I can also say that I am currently somewhere between Stage 2 and Stage 3. I'm not sure I have ever progressed to Stage 4. Okay, maybe. But I'd have to think about it a little.

So, now I am going to go and have a tour of the Bolshoi Theater. I'll write about it when I get back and hopefully post some photos, too.

Your assignment, while I'm gone, is to think about what stage you are in.


Rabbit blogger said...

does the book mention an ystages that include paranoia? in my first months in moscow i felt like everyone was snickering at me. the more words i learned, the more i tried to guess what people were saying, and found myself guessing the worst possible things...

Maya Frost said...

Hey, thanks for mentioning my book on your blog! Sorry you didn't like the "salesy" tone--you're right that it's sort of, um, encouraged. But I also think that it's a way to get attention (even if it's negative) for the ideas I am describing. We live in an alarmist/salesy world!

How did we live in Argentina? Just like loads of other people, we have tourist visas and regular lunches in Uruguay. It works, at least for now--hasn't stopped us from buying or selling a home, sending our kids to school or paying taxes here. ;-) Of course, it's not ideal, but then neither is the process for submitting paperwork--it can take a year just to get an appointment with the immigration officials! One official told us three years ago that our smartest bet was to just keep our tourist visa current and be honest about it. So far, so good.

The Expatresse said...

Maya: I tried to email you, but it was rejected (a common occurrence for those of us initiating emails from Russia, alas).

Ah, yes, the ferry to Colonia! I remember it well. We had a year-long visa for the first year we were there, but got lazy and didn't deal with the paperwork after that. Like you, we did take the boat to Uruguay once. I wondered if that was what you were doing.

MoscowMom said...

Wow, how cool... You post that and hear from the author within hours! I'll have to read that book.

I have another "expat" one I'll write about on my blog and could lend you, too :-)

Can't wait to read about the Bolshoi!

As for my "stage"? It really does move around in waves... Today I'm a 4, and I usually am a 4, but then something will derail me--some difficulty I just wouldn't encounter in the USA--and then I'm back to stages 2 and 3 all over again! You know how it is... :-)

Anonymous said...

I love the stages! I went through them all! I guess I am in limbo now.
I would add "paranoia" stage as stage 0 too. Mine was different from the Rabbit blogger. It took me a while to really understand any English, so I was not concern about people comments. My paranoia stage was all about KGB. Them coming to our house and dragging us back, or worse. It was really weird. Have no idea why I had it, must be some king of post-dramatic stress disorder. It went away in a while.

VC said...

I am between stage one and two - it usually takes me about a year to reach the fun stage.
As for books, I will highly recommend "Third Culture Kids"; by now it is almost classic.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

I dealt with encroaching culture shock by supressing any hint of dislike of the place ruthlessly. Every now and again something utterly trivial wou'd really get to me - like the horrible interogative noise Russian's add to questions that sounds really aggressive in English, which I hadn't noticed for five years and which suddenly I couldn't get away from and which had me on the edge of snapping at the poor person who had just asked nicely if they could cadge a smoke, the poor husband who had asked if I wanted a cup of tea, the poor metro user who had asked if I was getting off at the next stop, the poor...

The probem disappeared overnight after about three months. Until the time I noticed...

JuliaDeVillers said...

Hey, I know that book! :)

So I've read it 3 times already and keep picking it up to browse when I start to feel unnerved by our move. It pumps me up.

Two months to Tbilisi, but I think we'll still be in Ohio when you're here ...so you can pump me up too, right? Right?


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