Moving to a new place often involves adjusting to a different pace of living, and the experience can be disorienting. If you’re having some trouble with the transition, it helps to understand how others have dealt with the challenge.
Read on for some information about culture shock and our tips for easing the anxiety of adjustment to a new city.
Culture shock defined
Culture shock occurs when a person is thrown into a culture that is new without knowing what to expect. Elation, anxiety and confusion may result. This experience happens most often when moving to a foreign country, but one can certainly experience culture shock in a new city or neighborhood, as well.
Typically, the culture shock sufferer will go through four phases, research suggests:
- The honeymoon phase — when life seems new, different, perhaps exciting — may last around three months.
- The next phase is negotiation, where the differences between the new place and one’s old home become very apparent, perhaps bringing on feelings of uncertainty and homesickness.
- After 6-12 months in the new location, one hopefully reaches the adjustment phase, where new routines are developed and the individual feels more at home in the new city.
- A year after the move, a successfully-adjusted person reaches the mastery phase, where he or she feels comfortable and has adapted to the initial culture shock.
How to adjust to a new pace of life
Now that you know the phases of culture shock to expect, you can ease your anxiety with these tips to make your adjustment less stressful.
Erase your expectations
When you move to a new environment, the pace of life may seem to change dramatically. Imagine moving from a quaint beach town to bustling New York City; the adjustment may be quite intense.
Consider letting go of your expectations about how things are done in this new place. Every activity — from job searching to ordering a cup of coffee — may feel different, so don’t assume results will happen in the time frame you expect. Try to relax and enjoy the differences. If it’s slower, use the extra time to catch up on email or read a local newspaper. If the pace is faster, jump in and enjoy the ride!
Tweak your timing
You may discover that your body clock naturally shifts when you change environments, perhaps more so than is convenient for you. In a slower pace of life, you may find yourself arriving late to events, for instance. When your pace is sped up, you might feel anxious and rushed.
The secret to managing this adjustment is to check in with yourself and compare how you feel with what you observe going on around you. Then you can make tiny tweaks like leaving a little earlier to arrive on time or appreciating the excitement of a fast-paced day. Be good to yourself, and take time out for rest if the time shift is overwhelming.
Embrace the pace
Once you begin to notice trends in how the pace is different in your new home, it’s time to start embracing it. If business contacts are slower to respond than they were in your former locale, take things down a notch and try to match that pace. For faster-paced lifestyles, ask your neighbors and co-workers how they became more efficient; learn to navigate the pace with their advice. See if you can mirror the behavior of the locals and adjust your speed to comfortably match.
Culture shock is a normal response to a big move, so don’t worry if it takes you a while to adjust to the scene in a new city. If you stay relaxed and go with the flow, in time, you’ll learn to follow your rhythm in a new groove!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Arman Zhenikeyev