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Coping with cultural change when moving abroad

There are few experiences in life that can encourage greater personal growth than moving to live in another country. Increasing numbers of people are taking this option, whether they are moving for work or just to give their family the chance to experience a different culture.

Coping with cultural change when moving abroad

There are, of course, many practical considerations, particularly if you are moving with your children, in which case the quality of the educational establishments in your new country will be a priority. However, if you can find a location with a good American International School, then this can make it a lot easier for your children to adapt to their new lives.

Beyond the practical concerns, there is an emotional dimension to moving abroad, and it is important not to underestimate the psychological upheaval involved. Even if you are keen to embrace the opportunity, you need to be aware of the likely ups and downs in order to prepare yourself. Generally speaking, the process of cultural adjustment for those moving abroad moves through the following stages.

The honeymoon period

Early on, in the first few weeks of living in your new country, you are likely to be full of optimism and excitement, with a strong desire to explore the new culture. This is a good time to get out and about, to sample as many cultural experiences as possible, including sampling new food and drink, embracing differences and making new friends.

Culture shock

After the honeymoon period, you may experience a period of culture shock, which is often apparent in outbreaks of irritation or even hostility. By this time, you will be missing your friends and the many familiar aspects of your home country, and you may begin to find fault with certain aspects of your new home. During this time, it is important to try to stay positive and patient, surround yourself with new friends, and remind yourself why you moved abroad.


Once you have overcome your culture shock, you should begin to settle in to a greater extent. You will gradually begin to adjust and to see things in a different light, and the fact that you are now familiar with many aspects of the new culture means that you feel more at home and less like a foreigner. At this time, you can delve a little deeper into the new culture, visiting museums, finding out about sports and politics and so on. You should also remember to be patient with yourself, and put your experience in perspective.

Feeling at home

Over time, you should find yourself entering the fourth and final stage. By this time, you are fully integrated into your new country, and this is the time to really relax into the new culture and to embrace all that it has to offer, giving yourself memories that may last a lifetime.

Adjusting to a new culture is a big deal, and shouldn’t be underestimated. By being prepared for the various stages of adjustment, you can minimize the difficulties and make the most of the wonderful experience of living abroad.

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