Preparing to Teach English Abroad: Dealing with Culture Shock

Many ESL teachers will experience some degree of culture shock. Oxford Seminars has outlined many of the symptoms of culture shock and some easy ways to overcome it.

Stages of Culture Shock
How to Overcome Culture Shock

Stages of Culture Shock

Culture Shock is the physical and emotional discomfort one suffers when living in another country. Most likely, everyone will go through some degree of culture shock. It is a natural process. The recognizable stages of culture shock are:

The Honeymoon Stage
Everything is new and exciting and one feels as though he/she is on vacation.

The Hostility Stage
One starts to have problems in the host country and therefore starts to criticize the culture. This happens when a person is trying to adapt to a new culture. Things are no longer new and exciting.

The Depression Stage
Your negative feelings reach a climax and one feels lonely and negative. Boredom sets in and working full-time becomes very difficult and one doesn’t want to be involved in the community. The transitions between old methods and new ones can take time.

The Acceptance Stage
One realizes the good and the bad about the culture. One starts to become more comfortable and makes friends as the understanding of the new culture begins. Depending on the person, this stage usually occurs four or five months after living in a new culture.

These stages present themselves at different times and everyone reacts differently to them. Some stages will be longer than others.


  • Homesickness
  • Boredom
  • Withdrawal (spending too much time alone in your room; only socializing with people from your country)
  • Sleeping and eating too much
  • Feeling irritated with others
  • Stereotyping host nationals
  • Not being able to work well
  • Lack of confidence
  • Sadness and loneliness
  • Developing obsessions, such as over-cleanliness
  • Crying for no particular reason
  • Thinking your country is perfect

How to Overcome Culture Shock

  • Learn the local language, the rules of social conduct, and history of your host country.
  • Admit frankly that these stresses occur; it’s not a sign of weakness to admit you feel uncomfortable or confused.
  • Recognize that adjusting is hard work; view change as a challenge instead of a threat. Don’t expect everything to fall into place immediately.
  • Establish a routine as soon as possible. This provides stability when everything else in your life is in a state of flux.
  • Make your home a place that is comfortable and reminds you of who you are.
  • Develop a hobby.
  • Include physical activity into your routine.
  • Keep busy.
  • Refrain from value judgments at first.
  • Pay attention to relationships with family and colleagues.

Visit Travel Safety for tips on how to stay safe during your time abroad. For more information on preparing to travel and teach abroad, print the Preparing to Go Checklist prior to your departure.

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