Saint Louis University

Cultural Adjustment & Culture Shock

Cultural Adjustment
Adjusting to life in a foreign culture is exciting, but it can also be stressful.  
Identifying and coping with this stress may ease your cultural adjustment.

Tips for Dealing with Stress:
  • Manage expectations
  • Be prepared 
  • Accept a new frame of reference
  • Keep in touch with friends and family at home
  • Take care of yourself: eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest
  • Journal
  • Remain flexible
  • Ask questions
  • Contact the study abroad office at SLU
Culture Shock
Culture shock impacts students differently throughout their time abroad.  Culture shock is characteristically a continuum of four stages:

1.    Honeymoon Stage/Excitement:
  • Feelings of elation and excitement
  • Fascinated and intrigued by the host culture
  • Positive feelings about the host culture

2.    Negotiation Phase/Withdrawal:

  • Differences between the two cultures start to create some anxiety and frustration
  • Start to withdraw
  • Begin to criticize or mock host culture
  • Negative feelings about the host culture

3.    Adjustment Phase/Adjustment:

  • Growing comfortable with new routines and the new culture
  • Accepting differences

4.    Mastery Phase/Enthusiasm:

  • Feel confident in your new culture
  • Enjoy the new culture and adopt some behaviors of the new culture


Students traveling abroad often experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout their time abroad.  Recognizing the symptoms of culture shock may help you cope appropriately.  

Symptoms of Culture Shock:

  • Sadness, loneliness, melancholy
  • Preoccupation with health 
  • Aches, pains, and allergies 
  • Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little 
  • Changes in temperament, depression, feeling vulnerable, feeling powerless 
  • Anger, irritability, resentment, unwillingness to interact with others 
  • Identifying with the old culture or idealizing the old country 
  • Loss of identity 
  • Trying too hard to absorb everything in the new culture or country 
  • Unable to solve simple problems 
  • Lack of confidence 
  • Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity 
  • Developing stereotypes about the new culture 
  • Developing obsessions such as over-cleanliness
  • Longing for family/home-sickness 
  • Feelings of being lost, overlooked, exploited or abused

These feelings are normal and fairly common for individuals travelling, studying, working and living abroad.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please know that it is common and that there are people who are willing to listen to what you have to say.  
The Study Abroad Staff is happy to listen and available through email, phone, Google chat, Skype, etc.!

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