How to Deal with Culture Shock

March 19, 2018
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Culture shock is something you deal with when you live abroad. The cultural differences between your native country and your adoptive one can cause stress and accentuate homesickness. The process of recognizing, understanding, and adapting to these differences and changes is called culture shock.
There are four stages of culture shock:
  • The Honeymoon Stage: after arriving at your new home you feel happy and excited about all the new things surrounding you. Normally, when you are just on a trip you never go beyond this stage, that's why culture shock doesn't apply to vacation.
  • The Negotiation Stage: after a while, that initial euphoria diminishes. You start being irritated by those differences that you found charming in the beginning.
  • The Adjustment Stage: you start to relax and come to terms with your new situation. You undesrtand those differences and are not irritated anymore.
  • The Mastery Stage: you feel at ease in your new home and culture shock is over. That doesn't mean you won't be homesick anymore. You will surely miss your friends and family but you accept your new life and feel comfortable.

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The longest period I've spent abroad was my year as an au-pair in California. Before joining our host families we had a week of training where we were forewarned about culture shock. These were the things that shocked me the most as an Spaniard in the US:
  • Food portions are huge! I wasn't sure if I was ever going to finish a plate when I arrived. I did end up finishing them and I also put on a lot of weight (damn you, Cheesecake Factory!)
  • Touching people. Here in Spain we touch people a lot while we are talking, something I had to refrain myself from doing in the US.
  • Strangers talk to you everywhere: the street, public transport... Sometimes they ask personal questions which made me feel so uncomfortable. After a while I learnt that they didn't mean wrong and they weren't going to use that information against me. It's just the way they are.
  • Spain is famous for its late eating times. I had a hard time adjusting to those times and when I ate alone I went back to Spanish hours of meals.
  • I had never celebrated Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve was so different from what I'm used to.
  • Even though I was fluent in English when I went to the US, I know many people who move abroad to learn the language and therefore have a harder time adjusting. My advice is to learn things like false friends (a word that has a similar form to one in your native language, but a different meaning) before you leave to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Humour can lead to misunderstandings too. I don't think Spanish humour is so different from the US. Also, we are so used to American comedies that we are familiar with their jokes, but coming from other cultures different humour can lead to awkward situations.stylish travel outfit parisian girl beret button cardigan
  • Avoid constant comparisons with home.
  • Keep in touch with your loved ones.
  • Make new friends, especially people in the same situation who can understand and support you. And do lots of activities together! Hobbies, volunteer work..., keep busy and in good company during your free time.
  • Share your culture with those arounds you. Host theme parties, show them photos...
  • Write down what you love during the Honeymoon Stage, and look back later when you feel irritated.
  • Travel as much as you can. Make the most of this wonderful oportunity.
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Living abroad is not all a bed of roses, but at the end of the day the advantages are more than the disadvantages. So don't let culture shock put you off.
Have you ever lived abroad? Did you experience culture shock?
xo Cristina



  1. Wonderful and insightful post! I love your blog and always take some thing from it. My husband works around the world and misunderstanding humour is a huge one according to him. xx

  2. That is indeed quiet of an adjustment. Bravo to you...
    IG @grace_njio

  3. I've never lived abroad, so most of these things have never crossed my mind! It's so interesting to read some of the differences between the two cultures. I would even venture to say that, because the U.S. is so large, if you were to travel to the east coast you would probably experience another small culture shock.

  4. This is great! Two of my siblings are adopted, but they were too young for them to remember much. This post is applicable to some of my international students, though!

  5. Thanks for your sweet words, Maria. They mean a lot to me.

  6. Kelleyn RothaermelMarch 20, 2018 at 4:33 AM

    Love your outfit ! yes, Americans just love to talk and get to know one another. I live here in germany right now and found that Europeans kind of like to keep their distance. It is harder to get to know people.

  7. I have never lived abroad but I would love to experience it one day!

  8. Love the splashes of color in your outfit!
    Thanks for joining us at

  9. This was such an interesting read! I'm a foreigner in the states myself, but my closest friend here is also from Spain! I'll have to ask her if she noticed these things.

  10. I lived in Peru for a while when I was 21 and had a culture when I came back to Germany haha.. not the other way around!

  11. Mummabstylish MummabstylishMarch 21, 2018 at 12:12 AM

    I can see that there would be differences, but have never been in a position for them to affect me. Thanks for sharing and your photos are amazing - so clear. x Jacqui

  12. These are great bullet points Cristina. When we first came to America, it was a culture shock. I would say more so for my parents than my brother and I since we were still so small. Growing up partially in the Philippines and then living most of my life in the US, there were moments of trials and heart aches. But my brother and I adopted well since we came to America at a younger age than my parents whom to this day are still adjusting to the way of life here.

    Maureen |

  13. That's such a fun post! I totally can relate! When you are in an other country, the culture can be so different!

  14. These are good things to consider. The world is so diverse, and going abroad would be totally something i would do to find out more about other people's cultures.

  15. I’ve heard of culture shock, I haven’t traveled outside of the US but my friend has to study aboard and she was homesick the first few months before accepting how different it was there from the US.

  16. I have never lived aboard but I so appreciate your perspective on this!

  17. What a cute post dear. Indeed, culture shock can truly be life changing. But these are lessons that can't learn from the four corners of a classroom. It's a way to experience life and the beauty of diversity of the world. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this dear. Truly insightful!

    Jessica |

  18. Mes Voyages à ParisMarch 22, 2018 at 11:02 AM

    This is so interesting dear! Love the look!


    Mónica Sors



  19. I can relate to so much of this post! My father is from Spain and I visit often! When I come home the first couple weeks I’m kissing and touching everyone when greeting! Lol also those late night dinners!!! Lol

  20. This is such a great post, Christina! Culture shock is an adventure - life is boring without mixing it up and learning about the world!

    I hope you'll add this pretty outfit to On Mondays We Link Up!

  21. Such an amazing topic to talk about, especially traveling!
    xx jen

  22. Mackintosh TravelsMarch 25, 2018 at 12:27 AM

    I love all the stages you present with culture shock! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  23. That's interesting! I guess you can feel a little culture shock when you come back too after living different experiences for a long time. When I came back to Spain I did miss lots of things from America, well I still do!

  24. Thanks for sharing your experience, Maureen :)

  25. I had the same feeling while in America. People are much friendlier there.

  26. Yes, Courtney. It's so rewarding!

  27. Great post beautiful, I can totally relate to everything you shared here. I remember how hard it was when I moved from Colombia to Australia and how long it took me to learn the language, but as soon as I reached the "Mastery Stage", I learnt to juggle both cultures and now, I can swiftly move from one to the other. And I agree, travelling is such a blessing! it opens up our minds to amazing possibilities and beauty.

    Ps. I absolutely love your outfit, you look gorgeous! ... oh, and when I went to Madrid, I lost count of how many paellas and sangrias I had. The food was AMAZING!!!


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