The Four Stages of Living Abroad

Anyone who has spent a lot of time abroad knows that living abroad is so very different from backpacking, with it’s own joys, opportunities and challenges. Christine Fisher explains:

When I prepared for my first extended stay abroad, I daydreamed about all the travel and exploration opportunities ahead of me. I planned the logistics, arranged housing and budgeted my finances. With my sights set on London, I studied British culture and hoped for positive experiences. What I failed to prepare for, though, was the culture shock living abroad would bring. From the honeymoon stage to frustration or ‘rage state,’ to understanding and integration, life abroad certainly has its ups but at times also has a few downs. While in the moment they may not always seem positive, each stage can add a true richness to your expatriate life.

Honeymoon Stage:

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photo credit: anamobe

Honeymoon stage sets in early on in your time abroad. It is the time of excitement and intrigue when everything new and different is appreciated. During honeymoon phase you will be eager to learn about and experience all your new location has to offer. You will see with your own eyes the iconic landmarks or events you have seen only through another’s lens in photographs and guidebooks. Enjoy honeymoon stage while it lasts. Like your entire trip it will come with the benefits of new acquaintances and memories to last a life time.

Frustration or Rage Stage:

photo credit: Ed.ward

When the honeymoon is over, you may find yourself shaken. Perhaps knowing what is ahead, though, will lessen the blow of the most trying stage of life abroad. The frustration stage or rage stage sets in when the cultural differences, the language barriers, the fatigue and other tribulations unnerve you. You may offend someone or be embarrassed yourself, but no matter what the trigger, your entry into this second stage will be clear. The most consistent advice experienced expatriates offer is to remain positive. They warn to not reject differences but to adapt to them.

During my first extended jaunt abroad, frustration stage hit early. I was overly conscious of my actions, fearful of offending anyone or committing any cultural faux pas. Constantly monitoring my actions got to be too much. What really put me over the edge seems silly but was the confusing tangle of streets with cars zipping in the “wrong” direction and the seeming lack of pedestrian rights. Fortunately I did not have much of a language barrier to overcome, and with time I began to accept both myself and my new home hoping to find the best of both worlds.

Understanding Stage:

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photo credit: hawken king

If you can get past it, rage stage will be just a minor glitch in your time abroad, a glitch that makes everything from there on out seem great in comparison. After frustration you will find understanding, the stage when you become familiar with local people and customs and homesickness wears away. You will probably still make mistakes and find yourself confused, but you will be able to take these things lightly, finding the humor in them. Some even go as far as to call this third stage the humor stage. Laughing at yourself and learning from your mistakes will help you advance from understanding to true acclimation.

Acclimation Stage:

² – Immortal Lens -( Youssef Hanna )”]Just Sit And Relax!

Acclimation stage is all about acceptance – accepting your personal background and accepting life and culture in your new location. You no longer feel isolated, but rather you have begun to assimilate. While some people get stuck in earlier stages, if you can make it to acclimation stage, you will get the most rewarding travel experience possible. Then, just when you feel truly settled in, it will probably be time to go home.

Christine Fisher is a Contributing Editor for World Reviewer and a freelance journalist. Normally based in Philadelphia, Christine is now living in London and traveling through Europe.

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33 thoughts on “The Four Stages of Living Abroad”

  1. Thank you so much. Reading the post and comments feels like therapy to me. I am a Mexican living in Chile, and although the language is the same and peoples attitude is generally positive towards me, I feel very isolated and sad at times, and although I know it will go away eventually I am feeling like this has gone on forever. I am facing this alone, haven’t found much friends here because everyone has a life of their own, which makes the rage stage even more difficult to go through. This truly makes me feel less alone and reassured that it will all get better in time.

  2. Thank you for this post! I just happened to stumble on it, and it’s exactly what I needed after a month of living in South Korea. I never thought I’d go through stages like this; I thought I’d be in love right away… but it’s honestly so hard to adapt. I know now that there’s a silver lining! 🙂

  3. Love this!! I’m currently in the humour stage. I’ve been living abroad for less than two months and already I managed to find myself all the way on the other side of the world making the same mistakes I made at home. Oh the irony. Right now I’m just laughing at myself. Oh well, you live and learn. I really hope I get to the acceptance stage soon.

    1. Thank you for this post! I am in month 5 living in NZ from Canada. I love it here but do think the honeymoon is fading since I am starting to compare things here to Canada, thinking funny things like damn it there are so many flies in my house. In Canada we had fly screens and dryers to dry our clothes. I get annoyed with little things like not having a full time job yet. However I have met the love of my life, have free time to go surfing and have sheep out my window and eat dinner at the beach. Life is good, just need to stay positive and not fall into past habit of the grass is greener on the other side. Starting to see humour in my patterns following me around the world! haha! Safe travels!

  4. GOD im in the rage stage right now prague has been a bitch to me, the city itself is wonderful its just hard being alone and all that, plus pickpocketing so i have to rely on my family for financial support hopefully it will end soon though

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