Culture Shock and Rhinesmith’s 10 Phases of Cultural Adjustment

Adjusting to life in another country such as Japan can be quite a daunting task. It is a life-changing experience. There’s the unfamiliar language and culture which can be a shock for some.

Culture shock is an experience a person may feel when in cultural environment different from one’s own.  It can also be the feeling of personal disorientation when venturing in a new way of life in another country. Culture shock is said to consist of at least one of four phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and adaptation. It can affect each individual differently.

Dr. Stephen H. Rhinesmith, one of the world’s leading experts on global leadership, focuses on how to navigate complexity, diversity, and uncertainty in different economic and cultural environments. His insights provide an understanding of culture shock and shows how it can be like a roller coaster ride of emotions.

10 steps of cultural adjustment outlined by Dr. Steven Rhinesmith:

  1. initial anxiety
  2. initial elation
  3. initial culture shock
  4. superficial adjustment
  5. depression–frustration
  6. acceptance of host culture
  7. return anxiety
  8. return elation
  9. re–entry shock
  10. reintegration

The roller coaster ride of emotions when experiencing culture shock may cause each student to feel a natural pattern of peaks and valleys of emotions. Usually, the high points of excitement are followed by low points of sadness and frustration. Every person may go through these experiences in various degrees of intensity and  lengths of time. This is a necessary process in order to make a smoother transition from one culture to another.

After the initial stages of excitement, one’s expectations may be too high. It can begin to compare the contrasting differences of home culture from the culture abroad. This may lead to negative feelings. The best way to avoid this is to keep an open mind about trying and learning new things. Once a mindset is established that the new things are” now just a different way of doing things,” most students gradually adjust to the new lifestyle balanced with their own cultural norms. Take in everything new and make memories and friends to last a lifetime.

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