I’ve been busy these past few weeks--- having my orientation for my new job, adjusting to my new work, getting settled into my new home, adapting into my new surrounding and making these new culture a part of my own. It’s been a month since I came here in Riyadh and I have pretty much of adjusting to do. There were still lots of new things my senses needed to digest and accept as a normal recurrence in my everyday life. And YES! I haven’t yet truly adjusted… WHICH brings me in to writing this blog.

During my orientation, one topic that was discussed by a speaker was CULTURE SHOCK. This topic got me interested because  I could relate to its content. And I know most of my colleagues do too.

What is Culture Shock?

According to the Oxford dictionary, Culture shock is a disorientation experienced when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life.

When you moved into a new place or a new country, everything is unfamiliar. Every experience is new: the weather, language, food, clothing, currency, customs, social roles, values, religion, etc. You will find that weekends may be different back home, business and stores are opened and closed at hours you don’t know, certain holidays back home are not celebrated, and you find yourself in frustration talking with a local. Everything that you are used to back in your home country is gone. KALAS! NOW, This is culture shock.

photo credit: Rease

Everyone regardless of maturity, knowledge of the country in which you’ll be living, disposition in life or previous experience abroad will experience some degree of culture shock. How would you know that you are already experiencing culture shock? SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS would be:

  • Overwhelming sense of HOMESICKNESS
  • A feeling of sadness or loneliness
  • Feeling shy or insecure
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, pains and allergies
  • Idealizing own culture or trying hard to adapt with the new culture
  • Feelings of anger, depression, vulnerability
  • Feeling overwhelmed, lost and confused
  • Questioning your decision to move to this place
  • Being emotional than you are usually are
  • Feeling Nostalgic and Sentimental
  • Finding yourself clinging to the familiar
Like the grieving process, there are stages that we go through when experiencing culture shock. You may find yourself being stuck with one stage longer than the other, skip some of the stages or find yourself experiencing the stages not in its proper order.

The Classic 5 Stage Culture Shock Model:

Stage 1: The Honeymoon Stage

Like any new experience, there's a feeling of euphoria when you first arrive to a new country and you're in awe of the differences you see and experience with the new culture. You feel excited, stimulated, enriched. During this stage, you still feel close to everything familiar back home.

Stage 2: The Distress Stage

Everything you're experiencing no longer feels new; in fact, it's starting to feel like a thick wall that's preventing you from experiencing things. This is were excitement turns into disappointment and there are more and more differences that occur. You feel confused, alone, overwhelmed by problems and realize that the familiar support systems you have back home are not easily accessible.

Stage 3: Re-integration Stage

During this stage, you start refusing to accept the differences you encounter. You're angry, frustrated and even feel hostile to those around you. You start to idealize life "back home" and compare your current culture to what is familiar. You dislike the culture, the language, the food. You reject it as inferior. You may even develop some prejudices towards the new culture. Don't worry. This is absolutely normal. You're adjusting. This is actually a pretty common reaction to anything new. Think back to when you started a new job or moved to a new house or a new city or when you moved in with someone. Any adjustment can cause you to look back in awe and wonder why you made the decision to change.

Stage 4: Autonomy Stage

This is the first stage in acceptance. I like to think of it as the emergence stage when you start to rise above the clouds and finally begin to feel like yourself again. You start to accept the differences and feel like you can begin to live with them. You feel more confident and better able to cope with any problems that may arise. You no longer feel isolated and instead you're able to look at the world around you and appreciate where you are.

Stage 5: Independence Stage

You are yourself again! You embrace the new culture and see everything in a new, yet realistic light. You feel comfortable, confident, and able to make decisions based on your own preferences. You no longer feel alone and isolated. You appreciate both the differences and similarities of your new culture. You start to feel at home.

It is important to stress that culture shock is entirely normal and usually unavoidable. The experience will help you be more aware of your own culture as well as the new culture you have experienced.

As for me, I find myself in limbo between Stage 1 and Stage 2

There are several things that you can do to help yourself through the stages of culture shock:

Find yourself a hobby

Join a club

Try out for a sports team

Take a language class

Meet new people. Befriend some locals

Walk around your neighborhood

Visit the same coffee shop, bookstore or supermarket

Go on tours. Be a tourist on your own town

Get to know your city, its history and culture

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH HOME (through social networks, e-mails, skype, text messaging, phone calls...)

Write a journal or keep a blog

Ask for help. Ask QUESTIONS

These things will help ease you into autonomy stage and independence stage wherein you will be able to accept your new environment and appreciate the differences and similarities between your own and new culture and make you start feeling AT HOME ... =)


  1. Hi Diorelle,

    I can relate to you, been to Saudi for 3 straight years Dec 1986 up to 1989. Most of us first timers, did cry during the first few nights. But we Filipinos are resilient and get over it.

    Enjoy your stay in Saudi, love your work, and your family and friends. GODBLESS... :)


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