Don’t be too concerned about experiencing culture shock in Malaysia. The cultures of Malaysia are diverse but the people are mostly friendly and welcoming.
However, everyone does experience the symptoms of culture shock somewhat differently, so we’ll review some poitns. The symptoms can be physical and emotional. You may be afflicted by ailments without apparent origin, such as headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue and diarrhea. All your senses are on full alert, soaking in the new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Your metabolism may take months to adapt to a new climate. Even while you sleep the environment has an impact on your senses, possibly influencing your dreams.
Moving overseas to Malaysia can present many challenges big and small, that can take you way out of your comfort zone. In order to feel comfortable again it is necessary to become familiar with the terrain and adapt to the new environment. When you feel uncomfortable or even completely miserable, it might be reassuring to know that it’s only a temporary period of adjustment and you’ll soon come out at the other end feeling stronger and more patient for the experience. Expat Go recommends a Zen approach to relocation! Stay calm, stay positive, and embrace the cultural differences.
THE 4 STAGES OF CULTURE SHOCK
Most psychologists agree that culture shock is made up of stages. Everyone relocating to a foreign country is likely to experience at least one of these stages, if not all. Familiarising yourself with the different stages of culture shock can help you deal with it. This knowledge is like a forecast of rough weather ahead. You’ll still have to weather the storm but you’ll be better equipped to cope. Don’t forget that these stages can recur periodically depending on the stresses of daily life – you may find yourself right back at stage two after a particularly frustrating day!
Stage 1 : Excitement
During this stage, everything is new, exciting and wonderful. You feel fortunate for the opportunity to live in Malaysia, you smile a lot, feel positive and in control. This is a great time to explore, meet people and soak in the sights and sounds of Malaysia. This stage typically lasts from 2 – 8 weeks.
Stage 2 : Withdrawl
The honeymoon is over, and you’ve come back to earth with a bump. This can be the hardest stage of culture shock – some people never get past it. Daily frustrations seem like massive hurdles, you may find yourself drawn to similarly frustrated expats to share your negativity, and you don’t feel like doing any more of that ‘tourist stuff’. Home seems very appealing, in a grass-is-always-greener way. The way to get though this is to find some positive people to hang out with, keep yourself busy, and try to learn some Bahasa Malaysia. This stage usually lasts for 2 – 3 months, but can be much longer, shorter, or missed out altogether depending on your attitude to life.
Stage 3 : Adjustment
Firstly, well done if you’ve made it this far. Getting past stage 2 is an achievement that you should be proud of. You’re now able to stay positive, show more tolerance, and even support other expats through that tough second stage. You are beginning to feel comfortable and ‘at home’. Continue to work on your Bahasa Malaysia, build your network of friends, and enjoy the growing confidence that comes with stage 3. This stage usually lasts for a year or two.
Stage 4 : Integration
You’re practically a local! Many expats never reach this stage, so well done if you do. You enjoy being where you are, you no longer stereotype the locals and you are generally successful in communicating with them. Enjoy yourself, but don’t forget that culture shock can recur occasionally even after living a long time in a foreign country.
- Expat Life, Striking the Balance as an Expat in Malaysia
- Are Asians Too Nosy?
- Expat Organisations in Malaysia