Culture Shock

rani's picture

Academics said that there are three or four stages of cultural adaptation / culture shock:

  1. The Euphoric Stage
  2. The Hostile Stage, which consist of Frustation and Depression stages
  3. The Acceptance Stage

Having moved around several places in the past twenty years, and looking back at when we began to live in a new place, the theory rings out to be quite true. For Indi and I, it took us about 12 – 18 months until we (think that we) fully adapt, every time we move to a new place. We also observe similar patterns in our friends.

By reflecting back to what we went through, we could expect similar pattern to occur in the process of re-adjusting to Jakarta. By understanding it, we should be able to adjust quicker.

For us, The Euphoric Stage usually lasts three to six months. This is like a honeymoon phase, and also just like a vacation. During that stage, everything seems beautiful, better than the previous place that we lived. We generalized the positive experience that we went through .We tend to play down the negative aspects and were very tolerant to bad experiences. When we first moved into Singapore we praise the transportation system, the cleanliness, and how people are diligent and punctual. We were amused by Singlish. We continually reiterated that we made a great decision to move to Singapore. We couldn’t understand why people could be negative about this place.

After that, we gradually shifted to The Hostile Stage. For us this usually began at the sixth months until around 12-18 months after we moved. We began to go through bad experiences and sadly, we tend generalize it as something “normal”. We kept comparing it with the place we previously lived. For example, when we experienced bad service in one restaurant in Singapore, we wrote about it as a “Singapore service”, that everyone in Singapore provides service like that. We kept complaining about lack of spontaneity in Singapore, lack of political openness, how people are kiasu and unfriendly. We even got sick of Singlish and didn’t find it funny anymore. Sometimes, the “Frustration” stage escalates down into “Depression” stage when we began to withdraw ourselves away from socializing with the locals. We also began questioning whether moving to Singapore is the right decision, and wished to move back to the previous place or to another place.

It is OK to go through the Hostile stage, but we shouldn’t be too preoccupied by it. We need to acknowledge that it is just a stage that will eventually pass. Then we need to work ourselves to move to the next stage, The Acceptance Stage. At this stage, we acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects, and understand the cultural differences and become less judgmental. After about 18 months, we entered this phase. We stopped complaining about how Singaporeans always ask about the prices of things, and just accepted it as a “cultural thing”. We take the lack of political openness for granted. We began to socialize with locals again, and life goes on. Life is better once we reach this stage.

Looking back at our adaptation process, we expect to go through the same phase when moving to a new place. And now we’re in Jakarta, we’d expect to go through the same process, albeit perhaps, faster, because we’ve lived there before.

Now, about two weeks since we moved to Jakarta, we’re still in Euphoric stage. Both of us are excited with the range of local food that we have missed while living outside Indonesia. We’re also amused by the friendliness of people. At this stage, although we’ve encountered negative things, such as lack of commitment to appointments, etc, we tolerated it. We bet in a few months we’ll enter the Hostile stage and the blog will be full of complains. Please bear with us. It’s just another phase that will pass. Hopefully we could get over it quickly and enter the Acceptance stage.

Before (2002)

After (2008)


Welcome back

Welcome back, Ran (to Jakarta and to blogging, hehe) Wow, it's been almost 2 months since your last post :)

So how's fastnet?

Stage 2

Hmm, stage 1 happened to me in just 1-2 weeks. After that stage 2 until now (almost 3 years). OK, I have to admit stage 3 is slowly creeping in but only a bit probably because I tell myself to reject it (don't want to be beaten up by this city). The funniest thing was stage 1 happened to me in a year when I was abroad, then stage 2 was only last 1 month then stage 3.

Well, I think this stages worked differently for each people depending on how much their mind want to be. For me, I don't want to pass to stage 3 while I am in Jakarta and for that I am bracing myself for the hardest impact.

Agree with your theory

Dear Rani, I completely agree with you although the duration of each stage can be different. What can be dangerous is if we got carried away in the Stage 2 and failed to pass to the next stage BEFORE our stay in one place is over. In this case we will be "forever Stage 2" in that particular place. So positive mindset and openness is really important to get to the Acceptance Stage (Stage 3) quicker.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.