Experiencing the world and living abroad is an enriching opportunity, and it also presents unique challenges. Participate Learning’s Ambassador Teachers spend up to five years living and working in the U.S. During this time, they share their culture with their students and colleagues, and they immerse themselves in American culture.
Whether a teacher is a seasoned traveler or is living abroad for the first time, they will most likely experience culture shock. This is a very common phenomenon that affects people differently as they adjust to living in a new culture and country. There are usually four phases or stages of culture shock a person goes through—honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance.
In this new blog post series, we will go through each phase in more detail and talk about the best ways to adapt to new cultures and experiences. You will also hear from Ambassador Teacher alumni about how they have coped with culture shock. While challenging at times, acclimating to a new country is entirely possible and produces positive growth and change.
The first stage: honeymoon
In this post we’ll dive into the first stage of culture shock, often called the honeymoon phase. Like the name implies, in this stage a person is in love with the new culture and experiences they are having. New languages, foods, and people are exciting and exhilarating. During this period, travelers often feel confident and hopeful about their ability to adapt to new ways of life in this environment.
On a shorter trip, a person may stay in the honeymoon phase the entire time. As someone lives in a foreign country for months or even years, this phase will eventually pass as cultural adjustment continues.
Ambassador Teachers’ thoughts on adapting to a new culture
Ambassador Teachers navigate so many new things when moving to the U.S.—a different education system, new languages, sometimes driving a car on a regular basis for the first time, and so much more. Teachers who have successfully adapted to U.S. culture are open to new ideas and experiences. They recognize they don’t need to understand everything about a culture in order to accept it.
Juan Carlos Rivera, a former Ambassador Teacher from Panama, said that while the adjustment was a challenge, the kindness of others helped so much:
Fortunately, I met some great and helpful people over there [in the U.S.] who helped me on my journey, all of whom made a huge difference in my life. The teachers I met were examples of the kindness of people in the United States.
My experience teaching with Participate Learning had its ups and downs, but it was undoubtedly worthy.
Silvia Scorza, a former Ambassador Teacher from Costa Rica, has taught in both the U.S. and China, experiencing culture shock multiple times as she navigated different languages and ways of life. She said she is stronger and more resilient after going through those experiences:
All of my experiences abroad made me more resilient in my daily routines. I learned that I can adapt to many different situations in life if I overcome hardships in a positive way. I grew a lot, not only professionally but personally as well.
Gustavo, an Ambassador Teacher who is now on his third tour teaching with Participate Learning, said his favorite moments of living abroad have come from experiencing a new country and culture:
Every single experience was new in my daily life, and in my teaching experience, every day offered me an opportunity to be creative and test my endurance.
While culture shock is a common experience, that doesn’t make it any less confusing or frustrating for those going through it. Being prepared and recognizing that these thoughts and feelings are normal will help cultural adaptation happen more smoothly. Next in this blog post series we will talk about the second phase of culture shock: frustration.
Participate Learning provides ongoing support, help, and coaching for educators as they adjust to their life in the US. If you’re considering teaching abroad, take a look at our application process and requirements.