OVERCOMING CULTURE SHOCK: Phases of Culture Shock & Dealing With Culture Shock Abroad

Salut Youtube today I’m doing something
a little bit different you can probably see that I have got some headphones on
and that’s because I’m doing my first-ever collaboration via distance
and I have Audrey with me. Hello yes I am Canadian counselor, I work mostly online
with people who are abroad so I speak French and English and often I work with
people who either live in a country where they don’t speak their own
language but I don’t only work necessarily with people who are living abroad
sometimes it’s just easier for people to see a counsellor online. Sometimes just
like during your lunch hour you can pop into a conference room have your
meeting and then you know go back to work afterward. So why were you
interested I would say in working with people who are an expat situations or
living abroad? What fascinates you about that kind of situation? Well I think it’s
a lot about personal experience actually because I started being an expat I
started living abroad at first I thought that my work I wouldn’t be
able to export my work and then I realized that there was a lot of demands
for people who are living abroad and living the same challenges that I was
going through and needed help so I started specializing myself basically
and working with expats I think that sometimes just being abroad
and having like homesickness can bring out some other underlying issues that
were already there so let’s say if you were already an anxious person
maybe you’re in you’re going abroad and all of a sudden this anxiety that was on
check all of a sudden is really present and you need someone to to deal with
that so it’s not necessarily like oh I have anxiety about being abroad it’s
more like generalized anxiety. One of the reasons I started this channel in the first
place was to help expats I really wanted to start this channel to say hey you’re
not alone I’m going through these kinds of things I’m really excited to have you
today to talk about the concept of culture shock, what is it, what can it look
like, how can it manifest, and of course what can we do about it so really really
excited for today’s video. How would you define culture shock? What is it
exactly? Well very broadly defined I think culture shock
is the anxiety and confusion that results from being in contact with another
culture so that’s very broad and it’s something that immigrants, expats..
sometimes we get caught up into like all the nuances of those definitions.. but I
think like anyone really who is living in another country or even if you
just move let’s say I’m in Canada if I moved from Montreal to Vancouver I
could live a culture shock because that’s really quite different and maybe it’s not
completely a culture shock but even for students who are leaving home to go into
a more college community lifestyle and learning and transitioning from home to college
there are a lot of symptoms that are very similar to culture shock even if
they stay within their home country. So it’s not necessarily a national cultural
thing. A culture is the way…it’s the norms it’s the beliefs that a
particular group of people share it’s the way that they get things done it’s
the way that they see the world and that can be collective at a national
level but there’s also very very strong regional cultures in France so if you
move from from Brittany to Bordeaux region you may have yeah a shock and it can even happen when you change from one company to another company, each company has their
own culture so it is pretty broad but for today’s video we will really focus on moving to a new country and having that feeling of like oh wow i’m different to
these people. I guess I mean what I’ve experienced is that culture shock can
come in different levels so you’ve got the right what I would call the surface
level culture shocks which are language the classic one in France is
the French administration is difficult to deal with or or postal workers are
very rude to you or you know waiters are rude, all these kinds of
surface level culture shocks and then I think you have the deeper level ones
which in France could be something like fundamentally I find this group of
people quite pessimistic and I find that quite hard on a day to day basis. From what I’ve noticed and I’ve noticed also in the literature that there are a lot of
phases of culture shock and it’s not like you go through the phases and once
you’re done like you you feel like you’re part of this new culture and
everything’s fine it’s more like you navigate those different stages
and sometimes it can lasts for a day, you’re feeling like let’s say in the first
phase really of the the culture shock sometimes it’s just a honeymoon phase
which is not necessary something that everyone will go through, especially if it wasn’t your decision to live in a new country I’m thinking of something like a
spouse who is following, husband or wife following, and then you don’t necessarily get the honeymoon phase, but then afterwards you have the frustration phase which is really
more like superficial what you mentioned like I don’t know how to communicate
with people there’s this language difference I don’t know where to find
things like more superficial level. I think what you’re describing is
something that is maybe a bit more difficult to deal with because it’s
something that you cannot change so you have to work more on trying to accept
and see how you can change your perception and work on yourself to try
to navigate those challenges because those more like superficial level
difficulties like not being able to find a post office and eventually you get adjusted and hopefully you find it and then once you
find it like you feel like you have a bit of a comfort zone like all those
things that you didn’t understand at first at some point like you pick it up a few words and you’re able to to be feel like you’re more
fully adjusted but the things that you’re talking about, the
deeper things like values, perceptions and all the ways that cultures have influenced
your perception on a very deep level it’s something that you will not be able
to change. To be able to deal with it’s more of
like personal self work on how you navigate like the fact that it’s like that and you’re going to change it. It can feel hard sometimes to be the odd one out
because you’re around a collective of people that have been brought up in a
certain way and they all maybe have a collective belief about something and
you think very differently to that but you’re alone and that can
feel quite isolating. You know that everyone back home you’ve got
hundreds of thousands of people who think just like you, but in this
situation you’re the only one fighting for that point of view, it can be
quite hard. And I’ve noticed that the journey you’re talking about it’s really
not linear so you’ve got that those little superficial culture shocks at
everyone kind of notices as long as they’ve been in the country for six
months they’ll probably notice that kind of thing but then you adapt to those and
you start you start having this increased confidence, you feel and
everything’s going fine and you’ve kind of gotten over it and then it can be like
one two three years later that you get the smack in the face which is sort of
like wow fundamentally, as you said, do I accept to live like this? Because
it’s not going to change. Yeah and even that can go in phases, like especially if you are experiencing other difficulties it can exacerbate this feeling so let’s say you’ve been totally fine with the fact that your co-workers view some things really differently and then all of a sudden you
have a lot of stress at work or something’s happening at home or even
like you’re just been you’ve been physically sick for some reason and then
it sort of exacerbates that. All of those things that you were okay with suddenly
spike to become very very annoying and hard to deal with and it’s like you have this longing to go home. Totally I’ve experienced that actually because if I’ve ever been experiencing a bit of
depression or you know because I’m really homesick for example suddenly
everything’s agitating me and it’s like you know in my my French husband is like “I thought you got over that years ago!!” or something, but it’s true it
can it can boil back up to the surface. So what would you say would be just some concrete tips in for people who are maybe experiencing culture shock?
Because I see a lot of expats on the forums that I’m part of, some
very unhappy people that seem very frustrated with a lot of things that
they can’t change so what are some positive things that we could start
doing to kind of change our perspective? I think there’s a lot of things I think
one of them you’ve just mentioned it’s going on forums and sometimes just
finding other people that relate can be very helpful. There’s this group that
really makes me laugh which is like grumpy expats abroad which I thought was
hilarious and it’s not some people take it to another level and they really
complain maybe about deeper things but sometimes you know it gives us space to
complain about more the sort of minor things that maybe people you know
back home don’t need necessarily relate to like be thinking oh you’re having it good
you’re living abroad and everything but sometimes you just need to complain that
she wanted to eat Kraft Dinner and you can’t find it you know it goes very
maybe more superficial level so I find that connecting with expats can be very
helpful especially if you can connect with expats there from your home country
can be very helpful because they understand really this clash of having certain values and perspective and this clash that it’s
completely different me and the country you are in. I think a lot of expats are
ashamed of making friends with other expats especially in France like
oh I should really make French friends and I just say to them you
know there’s no need to feel ashamed if you need to construct your social circle
and find really great friends who speak your language or you connect to on whatever other reason that’s fine you know there’s no shame in that,
especially at the beginning I think people are so harsh on themselves trying
to force themselves to only have native friends when you know they will find so
many things in common with other expats and that’s cool too. I think it’s
important of course to integrate yourself in a culture, trying to learn
the language too even just the basics to be able to maybe have a basic
conversation. Just Hello, Thank You sometimes goes like a very long way but
yeah I think having both groups can be very important. It always depends which phase you are in as well but I found
that prior to moving somewhere sometimes just researching maybe by going on
forums also reading articles being informed that really helps in forging
expectations so that’s very helpful. I find that when people are struggling
the most is maybe when they were completely oblivious they were maybe
more in the honeymoon phase and didn’t research at all more so the
deeper stuff in terms of values and perceptions and it’s like really hitting
them in the face very unexpectedly and also just the fact of feeling validated normalizes your experience sometimes it feels good you
can allow yourself the space to say oh I’m not the only one struggling with
this and I think this is what you mentioned with your channel you wanted
to give yourself a space and also space for other people to feel like you are also going through this. I would also say you know looking at things from
a gratitude mindset as well because you know there’s a lot of frustrations like
oh I have to learn French as an adult, but how about like oh my gosh I get to
learn a new language and I don’t have to suffer through eight years of high
school grammar books? You know I mean I’m in full immersion and it’s just
sort of trying to twist those things that could be negative or scary or
frustrating to the positive as well has helped me a lot. So yeah it can be
very helpful like doing gratitude lists on a daily basis especially because we have these tendencies as humans to really
overemphasize the negative from a survival perspective it makes a
lot of sense like we’re trying to anticipate threat and see what’s wrong
to try to solve it but sometimes when we’re feeling particularly depressed it’s
not really serving us, so trying to force yourself into seeing like you said the things maybe that you’re grateful for or the actually positive
side of being abroad can be very helpful. Well thank you so much for sharing all
of this on culture shocks if anyone is watching this and they’d like to connect to
you where can they find you? They can find me through my website otherwise I’m
a little bit on Instagram I have a group on Facebook as well called Expat Psych Resources or if anyone’s interested we can contact me through those websites. Well that’s awesome thank you so much Audrey for being with me and we’re
actually gonna do another video together guys so look out for that one and
otherwise I will see you next time in the next video! A bientôt! Bye!

  1. Salut friends! How cool was that, a collaboration all the way from Canada?! If you are interested in Online Counseling for any reason, you can find Audrey here ▶ Website: http://audreycharneux.com/ ▶ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/expatscounseling/

  2. Perso je vis à l'étranger et même si c'est difficile de passer à travers certains trucs culturels, globalement ça va. Le problème c'est quand le pays ne t'accepte pas… L'autre jour je suis allée aux urgences on m'a dit de rentrer dans mon pays pour me faire soigner. Ils ont accepté que je vois des infirmiers, mais pas de médecin. Je devais aller voir un généraliste pour une urgence, on m'a refusée parce que j'étais étrangère. L'autre jour, j'ai eu une otite et on a refusé de me recevoir (heureusement ça s'est soigné seul mais ça aurait pu empirer…). Bref je vais rentrer en France ^^' Je n'ai pas envie de mettre ma santé en danger :/

  3. Rosie, this is one of your best videos yet! I really like when you collaborate with others to bring in an additional viewpoint and even an added resource for us expats navigating our way. Wonderful, wonderful.

  4. Rosie! I love this! I totally agree that even from different Swiss cities can be so different and I'm in a small town!
    Cheers to gratitude mindset, that's what keeps me positive and joyful! =D 

    Oh, and finding your channel and finding similarities though I'm in Switzerland, is really nice 🙂 
    Audrey's so sweet too! 🙂 Not sure about complaining on forums though.

  5. Great topic Rosie ! Definitely resonates with me. I'm a French who's been living in Australia for 12 years. I thought I was very well integrated with my Aussie partner and friends (and only 1 French-American friend) until I had a baby a couple years ago ! My inlaws (who, I thought, were adorable) developed expectations that made me feel there was something wrong with me… I finally realised culture shock had caught up with me when I visited my family in France last year. Even though I know Australia is a better place to bring up kids, I now feel very lonely and I'm seriously thinking of coming home 😔

  6. Great video, Rosie. I feel you're helping so many people with this. Hope you found it helpful too? Big hug. I'm sure things will get better x

  7. Ahhh I love that you made this video! It’s such a great video bringing awareness and tips to help out when abroad. It really is a form of a preventative measure in mental health by talking about this topic and providing tips. Plus, validating these struggles normalizes it in allowing us to feel less alone. Merci beacoup, Rosie!

  8. Learning little words here and there go a long way in other countries. I've spent two years in China and just 6 months ago moved to France with my fiancee and the way people treat you after seeing the enough you have put in is amazing. People (especially English speakers) need to put themselves in the other persons shoes, just imagine walking down a street and some Russian comes up to you and asks for directions speaking only Russian. You'd be shocked and a bit annoyed that this person just expects you to know what's going on.

  9. Culture shock was one of the reason my relationship with a Chinese woman expat didn't work out. Even after learning the language and living in France for several years, she couldn't overcome the homesickness.

  10. I relate to this so much! I think part of why culture shock hit me so much was because I thought moving from England to Australia would be easy due to shared language, historical ties and the fact a lot of British people move to Australia, so when I realised there are a lot of differences (but no where near as much as for some other countries) I really freaked out! BUT I think it has definitely prepared me for the future and provided with me with a want to move to other countries to live!

  11. Hallo Rosie, great topic. I'm an expat myself too, over 10 years abroad. And I would say that only about 2 years ago I started to feel grounded and settled so to say. I have my own family here, which helps a lot, even though I'm married to a foreigner, we have our cultural clash moments but we cope with that (we're both expats where we live so maybe that helps). I was also fighting at the beginning to stay out if the expat bubble but now I don't care that much anymore, my kids and work keep me busy. I think the biggest challenge for me was the work environment which is rather homogenous also francophone. I'm the only expat in my unit and it was and still is hard at times. But it gets better with time, once you become more experienced and older. What I noticed and I think it's thanks to my personal multicultural and multilingual context is that I tend to be more open and less judgemental than my mono colleagues. Studies show that people confronted with an issue in their second language tend to have a more rational approach. I also believe that foreign languages should be taught taking etholingustic perspective into consideration, to be able to have a deep insight into cultural norms the so called invisible culture. At least It should be a must for those who decide to live abroad.

  12. Rosie, thank you for this video! I so needed this, without knowing I needed it.😅 This video topic was an excellent idea! Ciao from Italy.😘😘

  13. Ahhh the honeymoon phase. I remember it so well. And then someone was rude to me about me being from another country. It’s very shocking. It jars the mind and heart. I believe in what you were saying, have a mindset and attitude of gratitude. Look back and see how far you made it and what you are doing now – all by yourself and with great confidence. It’s also about what you allow yourself to do. Do not allow yourself to take those negative things to heart. And remember, you can choose not to be offended. Everyone has issues, and some manifest outwardly and don’t care if you get hurt. So, be conscious of that and make the choice to not be offended. Try not to burn every bridge, rather build them up. You never know who will become a friend.

  14. Thank you so much! I moved to Mumbai, India only five days ago from the US and this video was such perfect timing!

  15. Indeed, you made a good point, Rosie: one may not always be able to change our surroundings, but one may work on how one perceives them, thus how they affect us. GREAT content, ladies! 🤗

  16. J'ai adoré cette video ! Je suis Française et je vis depuis 2 mois à Londres. Je m'y sens pour le moment mieux que dans mon propre pays. Pour ma petite histoire, je suis née en Guadeloupe, puis je suis arrivée à l'âge de 18 ans à Montpellier: j'y ai vécu 6 ans. Puis j'ai vécu 6 mois à Lille et 4 ans à Paris.
    Les villes où je me suis senti vraiment bien (et mieux qu'en Guadeloupe) ont été Montpellier puis Londres. Tout cela pour dire que parfois, certains lieux ne nous conviennent pas, indépendamment de leurs points positifs (climat, architecture etc..) et de tous les efforts que l'on peut faire pour s'y adapter. Il faut savoir s'écouter 🙂

  17. Amazing video, Rosie! I've had a really intense culture shock today, so it's resonating today more than ever! (French expat in the UK since 6 months!). Really helpful video and extremely interesting. Thanks!

  18. True, living abroad is a mental challenge. From my experience:
    – Acknowledge things are different. You don’t need to agree with every local habits. You’re allowed to consider things can be done in a better way even if you can’t change it. Do not feel guilty about it.
    – Focus on the positive. You’ve decided to take up a serious challenge. Recognize and celebrate every single progress you’ve made. Laugh at you if you faced a situation that led to some embarrassment.
    « Le ridicule ne tue pas ».
    – Being an expat is a freeing experience. You’re simply pushing your own boundaries. That’s the great benefit of it.

  19. Rosie you changed a lot in 2 years , your face became pluffy round , lovely to hear you NZ accent even after so many years in france …thanks for the video cheers

  20. Totally understand this. I’m European and live in the US and feel so isolated over my attitudes to vacation and work life balance. Really makes me want to move home.

  21. Lol that was so funny… how can we feel more positive? "By going on grumpy expat"! Shes right it is hilarious. But i had to leave that group. It was too addictive. I really liked this video. Good work. 🙂

  22. Hi Rosie, I'm a new follower and I'm so glad I found your channel. I'm an Aussie living in Bordeaux and this video was super helpful, I found myself nodding along with everything you guys were saying! Thank you!

  23. I find a lot of times, too, that you notice things things are different but they don't bother you, until some other new crops up and is like the feather that broke the camel's back. For me, it's the small things that are the most difficult–things like eye contact that are so subconscious you've never even thought to think about them.

    EDIT: I love what she said about physical illness. Definitely when I'm sick I just want to go on autopilot and not have to think about anything, but obviously that's not possible when you have to continue (at the very least) speaking a different language. I find that being understanding and forgiving to yourself when you're sick or even just tired goes a long way to feeling better about yourself (not berating yourself for being a "failure" and realizing that things will be easier when you're back to 100%).

  24. Hey Audrey, how you get in touch to meet with other Canadians in France, what specific websites, forums, or groups? I have read that there are only around 12,600 Canadians living in France. I have not met a single one during my time in France!

  25. Hi Rosie, hi Audrey, thanks for the great video. I'm struggling with some of those deeper cultural differences/shocks whereby I cannot change the situation, so I can only change my feeling and perception of it (or leave). And I was wondering if you could share something more about how to change this while you are in the situation. In other words: if you're already triggered and in a state of survival, how did you get back into your (inner) comfort zone? Concrete tips or experiences? 

    I've realized that over time I'm already triggered into a constant low level of anxiety/survival by simply being in France and/or speaking French. And part of that comes from the many situations where it's considered a faux pas to bring it up and actually talk about it, especially when it's about very fundamental beliefs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *