When we decide to move away from our comfort zone, to leave the city where we have grown up, we usually say goodbye with the optimistic attitude that we are venturing towards something better. Big changes are often accompanied by the enthusiasm of the person behind them. Moving to a new country and a new city is an experience full of opportunities, offering us the chance to start from zero and grow as individuals in many ways.
Upon arrival everything happens quickly. You meet people, make friends and start to adapt to the city, where everything is new and catches your attention. This first stage is called "Honeymoon", and while it lasts, we feel that moving to the new country was the best decision we could have made and everything that happens to us is exciting and positive.
However, this first phase usually comes to an end after a few months, and is replaced by the "Frustration stage". It is at this point, when you have your routine and have assimilated the rhythm of the weeks, that you start to become more aware of the difficulties. This is accentuated when you don't know the language of the host country and it is an obstacle in the work environment or in everyday life. Frustrations arise, confusion about habits and customs that were common in the country of origin and are decontextualised here, and vice versa. Nostalgia and sadness are feelings intimately linked to this period.
Thirdly, there is the "Adjustment Stage". Gradually, adaptation is consolidated and we are able to understand the culture in which we are immersed. We feel more comfortable and less critical of the new customs, and everything starts to feel much more familiar.
Finally, one can speak of the "Acceptance Stage". It does not mean that one now feels "at home" in the new country, but it does mean that one has accepted that, even if there are still customs that clash with one's own ideas or culture, this does not prevent one from progressing in the new community. We become more flexible in terms of learning new habits.
These four stages make up the well-known phenomenon: "Culture Shock". Of course, there are many factors that influence its development, such as the personality of the individual or the social circle that surrounds him or her on arrival, whether it presents itself as a point of support or not.
Speaking now from my own experience as a volunteer in a kindergarten in Leipzig (Germany), where I have been living for almost three months, I can give some examples of how I have experienced these stages. At the beginning I have little to say, everything was amazing and I could only be happy to be here. After a while, when I started to see that I was not making progress at work because I was not able to communicate well with the children and many of my colleagues, the frustrations began. Also, I come from a city that is much, much smaller than Leipzig, so getting used to living far away from work and taking several trains every morning to get there was also a shock. Eventually, the days started to get shorter, and the fact that it got dark at 5pm didn't help the situation.
Despite all this, I tried to adapt to my new life, and thanks to German classes, finding hobbies to keep me busy and active, and a lot of luck with my flatmates, everything started to pick up again.
Being aware of the existence of this phenomenon can help to overcome it in a more bearable way. Often, when we have a negative feeling and we do not know its origin, it can generate even more anxiety. Knowing what is happening to us makes us able to control it and therefore carry out actions that allow us to change.