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Academics said that there are three or four stages of cultural adaptation / culture shock:
Having moved around several places in the past twenty years, and looking back at when we began to live in a new place, the theory rings out to be quite true. For Indi and I, it took us about 12 – 18 months until we (think that we) fully adapt, every time we move to a new place. We also observe similar patterns in our friends.
By reflecting back to what we went through, we could expect similar pattern to occur in the process of re-adjusting to Jakarta. By understanding it, we should be able to adjust quicker.
For us, The Euphoric Stage usually lasts three to six months. This is like a honeymoon phase, and also just like a vacation. During that stage, everything seems beautiful, better than the previous place that we lived. We generalized the positive experience that we went through .We tend to play down the negative aspects and were very tolerant to bad experiences. When we first moved into Singapore we praise the transportation system, the cleanliness, and how people are diligent and punctual. We were amused by Singlish. We continually reiterated that we made a great decision to move to Singapore. We couldn’t understand why people could be negative about this place.
After that, we gradually shifted to The Hostile Stage. For us this usually began at the sixth months until around 12-18 months after we moved. We began to go through bad experiences and sadly, we tend generalize it as something “normal”. We kept comparing it with the place we previously lived. For example, when we experienced bad service in one restaurant in Singapore, we wrote about it as a “Singapore service”, that everyone in Singapore provides service like that. We kept complaining about lack of spontaneity in Singapore, lack of political openness, how people are kiasu and unfriendly. We even got sick of Singlish and didn’t find it funny anymore. Sometimes, the “Frustration” stage escalates down into “Depression” stage when we began to withdraw ourselves away from socializing with the locals. We also began questioning whether moving to Singapore is the right decision, and wished to move back to the previous place or to another place.
It is OK to go through the Hostile stage, but we shouldn’t be too preoccupied by it. We need to acknowledge that it is just a stage that will eventually pass. Then we need to work ourselves to move to the next stage, The Acceptance Stage. At this stage, we acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects, and understand the cultural differences and become less judgmental. After about 18 months, we entered this phase. We stopped complaining about how Singaporeans always ask about the prices of things, and just accepted it as a “cultural thing”. We take the lack of political openness for granted. We began to socialize with locals again, and life goes on. Life is better once we reach this stage.
Looking back at our adaptation process, we expect to go through the same phase when moving to a new place. And now we’re in Jakarta, we’d expect to go through the same process, albeit perhaps, faster, because we’ve lived there before.
Now, about two weeks since we moved to Jakarta, we’re still in Euphoric stage. Both of us are excited with the range of local food that we have missed while living outside Indonesia. We’re also amused by the friendliness of people. At this stage, although we’ve encountered negative things, such as lack of commitment to appointments, etc, we tolerated it. We bet in a few months we’ll enter the Hostile stage and the blog will be full of complains. Please bear with us. It’s just another phase that will pass. Hopefully we could get over it quickly and enter the Acceptance stage.