The Stages of Immigration
The stages of immigration have been extensively written about and the usual beginning point is to talk about the culture shock which occurs after immigration. This culture shock follows on directly as a result of changes which occur to one's value systems - to the new ideas in one's new country.
The term "culture shock" was coined by Kalvero Oberg in a 1954 report published by Bobbs-Merrill, in which 5 distinct stages of culture shock were identified. All people experience the same feelings of strangeness when travelling to or living in another country and this process has a cause, symptoms and resolution.
1. Honeymoon Phase.
Most people begin with great expectations and a positive mind-set. There is excitement, new sights, new smells, new tastes and the early problems are experienced as quaint - as part of the newness - anything new is intriguing and exciting. And, anyway, there are more pressing problems to deal with, like opening bank accounts, getting drivers licences, finding schools, doctors, dentists, gynaecologists. These are usually handled with the accompanying euphoria of having overcome each of these first hurdles successfully.
2. Rejection Phase.
The honeymoon phase comes to an end as the newcomer has to deal with transportation problems (buses that don't come on time), shopping problems (can't buy their favourite foods or soaps or whatever) or communication problems (just what does 'Norny-norny-norn mean? (1999). What does "See ya' later"/'No worries mate' really mean?). Little things come up but it may start to seem like people somehow no longer care about your problems. They may help, but they don't seem to understand your concern over what they see as small problems. You might even start to think that the people in your new country don't like newcomers and often you may begin to feel aggressive and start to complain about the new culture/country - 'Australians are ' ', or 'The system is ''. It is important to recognize that these feelings are real and can become acute. This phase is a crisis phase in the 'disease' of culture shock and is called the "rejection" phase precisely because it is at this point that the newcomer starts to reject the host country, complaining about and noticing only the bad things that bother them. At this stage the newcomer either gets stronger and stays, or gets weaker and goes home (physically, mentally or both).
3. Regression Phase.
If you have struggled with phase 2, you may find yourself moving into regression - moving backward - and in this phase of culture shock, you spend much of your time speaking your own language, watching videos from your home country, eating food from home. You may also notice that you are moving in social circles which are exclusively made up of people from your own background and you don't want to meet locals. You may spend most of this time complaining about the new country/culture and its strange and senseless ways. Also in the regression phase, you may only remember the good things about your home country which may suddenly seem marvellously wonderful; all the difficulties that you had there are forgotten and you may find yourself wondering why you ever left. You may now only remember your home country as a wonderful place in which nothing ever went wrong for you. Of course, this is not true, but an illusion created by your culture shock crisis.
4. Recovery Phase or At-Ease-At-Last Phase:
If you survive the third stage successfully, you will move into the fourth stage of culture shock. In this stage you become more comfortable with the language and you also feel more comfortable with the customs of your new country. You can now move around without a feeling of anxiety. You still have problems with some of the social cues and you may still not understand everything people say (especially idioms) or do. However, you are now much better adjusted to the new culture and you start to realize that no country is that much better than another - it is just different lifestyles and different ways to deal with the problems of life. With this new adjustment, you accept the food, drinks, habits and customs of the new country, and you may even find yourself preferring some things in the new country, to things at home. You have now understood that there are different ways to live your life and that no way is really better than another, just different. Finally, you have become comfortable in the new place - it's not so bad. Most importantly, your sense of humour will have returned and you find you are able to look at yourself and laugh.
5. Reverse Culture Shock or Return Culture Shock
This occurs when you return home after a long stay abroad and does not concern us here.
Generally speaking, it is important to remember that not everyone experiences all the phases of culture shock. In addition, you can experience all of them at different times: you might experience the regression phase before the rejection phase, etc. You might even experience the regression phase on Monday, the at-ease phase on Tuesday, the honeymoon phase on Wednesday, and the rejection phase again on Thursday. What will Friday be like?
Another interesting thing about culture shock is that there are routinely not one but two low points, and even more interestingly, they will accommodate themselves to the amount of time you intend to spend in the host country - are you a visitor or an immigrant? How long will culture shock last? That varies depending upon where you came from, how different the cultures are, your support systems and so on, but it also depends to some extent on you and your resiliency. You can expect a let-up after the first dip, but be prepared for the second downturn which may or may not occur.
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