Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools - Culture Matters

The Cycle of Adjustment


Photo of teacher and student in Gambia.

As Jan's letter to her "friends" indicated, PCVs go through somewhat distinct stages as they adjust to their host country, the host culture, and their job. Together, these comprise the cycle of adjustment, during which PCVs' awareness of and attitudes towards cultural differences change and evolve. While the sequence of stages presented in this exercise seems to be true for most PCVs, no one Volunteer's experience is quite like another's. You may not have all the feelings and reactions described here, but you need to be aware of what might happen to you or your PCV friends as you move through your Peace Corps service.

I. INITIAL ENTHUSIASM (THE HONEYMOON)

Time frame:

 

First week or two in host country

 

Characteristics:

 

 

Exposure to country and culture is limited.
Excitement and enthusiasm abound.
Everything is exotic and quaint.
Attitude toward host country is generally positive. Little is expected of you.

II. INITIAL COUNTRY & CULTURE SHOCK

Time frame:

 

First few weeks; first half of training.

 

Characteristics:

 

 

 

Wider exposure to country and culture means more realistic and more mixed reactions.
Enthusiasm is tempered with frustration. Feelings of vulnerability and dependence are common.
Homesickness is frequent.
Nothing is routine.
Limited language ability undermines confidence.
Close bonds are formed with other trainees.

III. INITIAL ADJUSTMENT

Time frame:

 

Second half of training.

 

Characteristics:

 

 

 

Routines are reestablished. Some aspects of the country & culture are now seen as normal.
Adjustment to the physical aspects of the host country is better.
Trainees are somewhat more self-reliant.
Trainees are more positive about their ability to function in country.
Adjustment is to the culture of pre-service training as much as it is to host country culture.

IV. FURTHER CULTURE SHOCK*

Time frame:

 

First few months after training; settling-in period.

 

Characteristics:

 

 

 

 

You experience post-training withdrawal symptoms.
You're adjusting to being on your own in country.
It's your first experience taking care of yourself in country.
You're having your first encounters with the work-related aspects of culture, with initial surprises and frustrations.
You miss daily contact with Americans and HCNs who understand you and your version of the local language.
You're surprised at still having culture shock to go through (you thought you adjusted during PST).

V. FURTHER ADJUSTMENT*

Time frame:

 

Post settling-in.

 

Characteristics:

 

 

 

You're getting used to being on your own.
You're better able to take care of yourself.
You're making friends in the community.
You speak the language better.
You're more effective at work because you understand the culture better.

In the space that precedes each of the statements below, put the Roman numeral for the stage of adjustment you think the person was in who made the remark.

I. Honeymoon
II. Initial Culture Shock
III. Initial Adjustment
IV. Further Culture Shock
V. Further Adjustment

1. I'm sick of these bugs.
2. I thought I knew this stuff!
3. You call that a toilet?
4. I'd give anything for a meal without rice.
5. These people are all so nice.
6. Homesick? For what?
7. I'm getting used to these toilets, believe it or not.
8. I'm looking forward to actually doing my job.
9. This language actually makes sense once in a while.
10. I don't believe it! They said I shouldn't jog here.
11. Bugs? What bugs?
12. You know, I actually prefer Turkish toilets.
13. I'll never learn this language.
14. Are you kidding? I can't eat curry (or beans) without rice.
15. No one said my job would be like this?
16. I never thought my problem would be too much free time.
17. I actually prefer soccer to jogging; you meet more people.
18. What a great place

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