The normal transition in adjustment usually has four main stages. First, you will probably experience what is known as the “Honeymoon” stage. At this point, you’ve just arrived and everything is exciting, wonderful, new, and different. You can’t get enough of this new culture and you certainly can’t imagine how anyone could possibly have a negative cross-cultural experience. You may miss home, but everything is still too rosy for that to bother you. This stage typically does not last very long—a week or two at most. For some, it ends the moment they get off the plane.
Ronald S. Byrnes illustrates the “Honeymoon” stage in his essay “Towards Other-Regarding Travel.”
“Some students romanticize cultural differences, particularly during the early stages of a cross-cultural experience. In some cases, dissatisfaction with important aspects of their home culture motivates their travels. Many of these students are also determined to avoid ethnocentrism. Often, they tend to over-compensate, and instead idealize the cultural differences they encounter.”3
After that, you will find yourself in the “Flight” stage. In other words, this is the “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” stage. All of sudden, the magnitude of the change hits you. The amount of uncertainty and disorientation that you feel will probably be overwhelming. Most things in the new culture will be unknown to you. You might feel clueless and isolated in a lot of ways. Other common symptoms of the flight stage are fear, anxiety, emotional instability, feelings of grief, and disappointment that your experience has not been as thoroughly enjoyable as you originally anticipated. You thought it would be all exciting, new, and exhilarating. Like the pictures. Like in the movies. But instead, you are experiencing culture shock. Big time.