Culture Shock Progression – Not so Linear

What struck me when I first saw this diagram was how closely it resembles diagrams of the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief. Culture ShockThe griever feels at first denial, then anger, next bargaining, followed by depression, and finally acceptance. I really don’t like that resemblance, however superficial. It eliminates all the agency of the student traveler – disasters and loss happen to someone, they can’t control it, and that’s part of why loss is so traumatizing. They go through these stages as psychological compensations for a reality that they cannot change.

But contrary to grief, exploring a new culture is a choice. The person voluntarily (usually) travels to the new country, takes an active role in exploring and trying to understand the culture and people there. Through their actions and conversations, they can create their experience and in doing so have a considerable advantage over someone who is experiencing loss.

I think one of the most important things you learn during travel is how to master it, to ride it like a skiff with the ever-present knowledge that if you don’t stay of top of it you can get swept away. I don’t think anyone ever really manages to stay completely dry, but over time you can learn to at least keep the boat from sinking.


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Filed under Nathaniel in Denmark, Western Europe

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