People relocating abroad report transitions in their feelings that usually follow a five stage acculturation curve. Depending on their strengths and past experiences, expats adapt to cultural diversity differently and remain in the phases for different lengths of time.
- While Preparation is usually filled with pleasant and hopeful expectations, it also involves pulling away physically and emotionally. A time to say goodbye to family and friends, and for some expat spouses, leaving a job or career.
- The first few weeks in the new country, often referred to as the Honeymoon, can be filled with adventure, travel and meeting new people. Unfortunately, the initial high often masks feelings of dislocation and increasing confusion.
- When it hits that you are no longer a tourist, culture shock sets in. Culture Shock is normal and affects nearly everyone who relocates. There is a dislocation because the connection between the self and the new environment has not yet occurred.
- Finally, after about a year, most expats Adjust and experience a positive stable balance. Self-confidence is reestablished, and they become comfortable with their local surroundings. Customs are adopted, and new social networks formed, leading to renewed feelings of self-confidence.
- The last phase, Repatriation, happens on reentry when reverse culture shock is experienced. There is a cycle of euphoria, negative emotions and anxiety, often mimicking the first four stages.