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Chapter 1. Culture shock

This is an excerpt from the Worktrotter's Guide to Denmark.
The Worktrotter's Guide to Denmark

In the numerous talks I had with foreigners (expatriates – “expats” – Worktrotters), it became clear to me that many are not fully aware of the phenomenon “culture shock”. They are taken by surprise and overwhelmed by it after their move. This chapter gives a quick introduction so that you will be better prepared for it. You can learn more about culture shock in the books listed in Chapter 25.

Note: This topic is not something that only applies to Denmark! You can experience culture shock in any foreign country.
Don’t dismiss the thought that culture shock might catch up with you. Even if it didn’t hit you in one country on your Worktrotter path, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in another where the culture might fit less with yours.

The term “culture shock” or “culture clash” sounds dramatic – as if the problem arises suddenly (as in a shock). But in reality its symptoms creep in rather slowly and seem more like irritations at first.
The diagram below illustrates how I visualise culture shock. The values of culture A don’t fit with those of culture B. We feel hindrances and shortcomings, which can raise irritations on both sides.

The term “culture shock” was introduced in the mid 1950s, with Cora DuBois and Kalervo Oberg playing an important role in its recognition and explanation. It refers to the feelings and fears that are experienced after a move to a foreign environment, where the known behaviours and norms no longer apply. What was obvious to you in your old environment with regard to greetings, politeness, behaviour in public places, etc. might work differently in the new country and could lead to negativity, confusion, embarrassment, etc. You feel deprived of your skills and abilities, and a certain sense of insecurity can arise.
Listen regularly to yourself after your move. How do you feel? If you have been feeling low and your spirits have been down for a while, you may have arrived at a critical phase of cultural adjustment.

Kalervo Oberg defined four phases which are still referred to today: the Honeymoon, Crisis, Acceptance, and Adjustment phase. The length of time and intensity one experiences these phases differs from one person to another but everyone will go through them in some form. A fifth phase applies to those returning to their old culture: Reverse culture shock.

The diagram below illustrates the phases in a simplified way. You may experience several ups and downs before reaching the Adjustment phase.
1. Honeymoon phase
2. Crisis
3. Acceptance
4. Adjustment
5. Reverse culture shock

Contents of Chapter 1: Culture shock
Effects of the Crisis
What can you do in the Crisis?

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Business-Dances with Danes. Decoding Danish work cultureBusiness-Dances with Danes

For those working with Danes and those trying to find work in Denmark.
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Find out how to decode Danish work culture, avoid pitfalls and know how you can bring your messages across when working with Danes. 

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