As the illustration indicates, the “stages” are not as linear as one might hope or experience. And as is the case in grief, I personally find that there are many times that the ‘stages’ loop back on themselves. This is not a problem in and of itself unless the individual gets stuck. While these stages do not adequately represent the process nature of life, they do illustrate the symptoms one experiences crossing cultures.


Stages of culture fatigue

Stage 1 – Excitement (honeymoon/tourist)

The individual experiences a ‘honeymoon’ period with their new surroundings. This stage is characterized by:

  • A sense of anticipation and excitement
  • Positive feelings about the culture
  • Sometimes overwhelmed with impressions
  • Find the new culture exotic and fascinating
  • Eagerness to fit in

Stage 2 – Anxiety (irritation to anger)

The individual now has more face-to-face experience with the culture and begins to feel the differences. This stage is characterized by:

  • Feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety and melancholy
  • Mood swings over apparently minor issues
  • Finding the behavior of others as unusual and unpredictable
  • Beginning to dislike the culture and react negatively to behaviors

Stage 3 – Withdrawal (rejection/regression)

The individual feels overwhelmed by cultural differences to the point of disengaging the culture. This stage is characterized by:

  • Withdrawing from the culture
  • Criticizing, mocking or show animosity to the people
  • Fantasize about going home or doing something ‘normal’

Stage 4 – Adjustment (integration/assimilation)

The individual now has a routine, feels more settled and is more confident in dealing with the new culture. This stage is characterized by:

  • Understanding and accepting the behavior of the people
  • Feeling less isolated
  • Regaining their sense of humor (not cynicism)

Stage 5 – Enthusiasm (home)

The individual now feels ‘at home’. This stage is characterized by:

  • Enjoying the culture
  • Functioning well in the culture
  • Preferring certain cultural traits of the new culture rather than their own
  • Adopting certain behaviors from the new culture