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Let's talk about culture shock - insights from our happiness coach

January • 14th, 2020
by Julie Leonard

The four phases of Culture Shock


It’s not easy moving to a new city, new country or even a new continent. 6 years ago, after only ever living in Scotland, I gave up my career, my home, my friends and family and followed love to Munich. Not only did I have to adjust to living with someone I had only ever spent a maximum of 2 weeks with, I also had to deal with a whole new culture. At first it was fun, an adventure, an exciting new start. I wasn’t working, I was a student again going to my German classes and going out to lots of Internations events.


But after a few months reality kicked in and life in a new country became harder – the language barrier, driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, shopping, phone calls, appointments. Everyday things were so much more difficult and a simple run to the supermarket would leave me exhausted.I was experiencing Culture Shock.


Culture shock is a feeling of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety or low mood. It is caused by being in a place (such as a new city or foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to. This is quite a normal reaction to living in a new country. Once the excitement and holiday feeling wears off you can be left feeling not so happy. Not having family close by, being without your network of friends, maybe not knowing the language, feeling that many things are different to what you are used to. All these can leave you in Culture shock.


Have you noticed that everyday things seem to take much more energy? Working out public transport, shopping for food, posting a letter, going to the pharmacy, and so many other things become harder and more exhausting and are often compounded by a language barrier.





Phase 1 - Honeymoon/Tourist phase

Before arriving you have feelings of excitement, anxiety, fear of the unknown, a sense of adventure. There follows a mood upswing on arrival. Then reality sets in, the realities of everyday life, homesickness.


Phase 2 - Crisis

As reality sets in there can be a crisis period where you are coping with down feelings.


Phase 3 - Improving mood

You begin to cope with and adjust to life in your new country.


Phase 4 - Healthy recovery and adjustment

You settle into routines, make friends and develop a network, enjoy hobbies and activities.



These are the stages of culture shock. Not everyone experiences them, some people move through the phases and settle into their new life. But for many they can be stuck between phases 2 and 3. Many experience feelings of low mood, loneliness, not fitting in, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, unhappiness......


As a Certified Life Coach I have supported many expat women to get unstuck and to move through these stages. The first step is understanding and acknowledging what is happening and knowing that how you feel is perfectly normal. And to know that there are lots of ways to feel happier. Over the coming months I will share lots of ways in which to overcome Culture Shock and to live with intention and happiness in your new city. 


In the meantime, you can get lots of free support in my Happiness Club, The Happiness Club Public Group​, take my free Happiness Quiz​ or schedule a free Discovery Call! - Get in touch!





Julie Leonard is a happiness evangelist, life coach and speaker - 'with 30 years of Psychology, Health and Coaching experience, I can help you change your life and feel truly HAPPY'

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