Culture shock is the difficulty people have adjusting to a new culture that differs markedly from their own.
The shock of moving to a foreign country often consists of distinct phases, though not everyone passes through these phases and not everyone is in the new culture long enough to pass through all five. There are no fixed symptoms ascribed to culture shock as each person is affected differently.
During this period, the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light, wonderful and new. For example, in moving to a new country, an individual might love the new foods, the pace of the life, the people’s habits, the buildings and so on. During the first few weeks, most people are fascinated by the new culture. They associate with the nationals that speak their language and are polite to the foreigners. This period is full of observations and new discoveries. Like most honeymoon periods, this stage eventually ends. “When an individual sets out to study, live or work in a new country, he or she will invariably experience difficulties with language, housing, friends, school, work…”
 Negotiation phase
After some time (usually three months but sometimes sooner or later, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. Excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one’s cultural attitude. Language barriers, stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, food accessibility and quality may heighten the sense of disconnection from the surroundings.
While being transferred into a different environment puts special pressure on communication skills, there are practical difficulties to overcome, such as biological clock disruption that often leads to insomnia and daylight drowsiness; adaptation of intestinal flora to different bacteria levels and concentrations in food and water; difficulty in seeking treatment for illness, as medicines may have different names from the native country’s and the same active ingredients might be hard to recognize.
Still, the most important change in the period is communication: those people who are adjusting to a new culture would feel lonely and homesick because they must get used to the new environment and meet people with whom they are not familiar every day. The language barrier may become a major obstacle in creating new relationships: special attention must be paid to one’s and others’ culture-specific body language signs, linguistic faux pas, conversation tone, linguistic nuances and customs, and false friends.
Due to the strain of living in a different country without parental support, some students might develop additional symptoms of loneliness, ultimately affecting the lifestyle as a whole. International students therefore often feel anxious and have a higher pressure in adjusting to the new cultures. This is even more valid when the cultural distance is wide, as logical and speech patterns are different and a special emphasis is put on rhetorics.
 Adjustment phase
Again, after some time (usually 6 – 12 months), one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines. One knows what to expect in most situations and the host country no longer feels all that new. One becomes concerned with basic living again, and things become more “normal”. One starts to develop problem-solving skills for dealing with the culture, and begins to accept the culture ways with a positive attitude. The culture begins to make sense, and negative reactions and responses to the culture are reduced.
 Mastery phase
In the mastery stage assignees are able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture. Mastery does not mean total conversion; people often keep many traits from their earlier culture, such as accents and languages. It is often referred to as the biculturalism stage.
Culture shock can occur not only after a honeymoon phase, but also directly upon arrival to the country. One may immediately begin to miss your home country, even things disliked and miss your home foods, family, friends, etc. It is not advisable to sleep excessively, isolate yourself or have anger towards your host people. It is possible to write, spend time with the host family, or people, and try to adjust yourself to the culture, including eating even if you are not hungry and sleeping at normal times, not when tired, and adjusting yourself to the time change (if applicable).
 Reverse culture shock
Reverse Culture Shock (a.k.a. “Re-entry Shock”, or “own culture shock”) may take place — returning to one’s home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture. The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock.
There are three basic outcomes of the Adjustment Phase:
• Some people find it impossible to accept the foreign culture and integrate. They isolate themselves from the host country’s environment, which they come to perceive as hostile, withdraw into a “ghetto” and see return to their own culture as the only way out. These “Rejectors” also have the greatest problems re-integrating back home after return.
• Some people integrate fully and take on all parts of the host culture while losing their original identity. They normally remain in the host country forever. This group is sometimes known as “Adopters”.
• Some people manage to adapt the aspects of the host culture they see as positive, while keeping some of their own and creating their unique blend. They have no major problems returning home or relocating elsewhere. This group can be thought to be somewhat cosmopolitan.
Culture shock has many different effects, time spans, and degrees of severity. Many people are handicapped by its presence and do not recognize what is bothering them.
 Transition shock
Culture shock is a subcategory of a more universal construct called transition shock. Transition shock is a state of loss and disorientation predicated by a change in one’s familiar environment which requires adjustment. There are many symptoms of transition shock, some which include:
• excessive concern over cleanliness and health
• feelings of helplessness and withdrawal
• glazed stare
• desire for home and old friends
• physiological stress reactions
• getting “stuck” on one thing
• excessive sleep
• compulsive eating/drinking/weight gain
• stereotyping host nationals
• hostility towards host nationals