I’ve just arrived in India and it’s fascinating! All these colours and sounds and heat and people and cows and motorbikes … oh boy I’m just loving this … but hang on … how do I fit into all this frenzy … I don’t know how to and it’s just all too much … oh hello, what’s happening here? I’m somewhere in the Change Curve.

Sound familiar all my expatriate clients?

Change is a process. It doesn’t just happen from one day to the next. We have to move through phases. We have to go through the Change Curve. In this blog today I am particularly thinking about my expatriate clients who have to cope with moving to a new country and all the changes that that brings. But the Change Curve is applicable for any type of change be it a new job or a new stage of life.

The stages are recognisable. There are four of them and they are:

The Honeymoon Phase,

The Culture Shock Phase,

The Adjustment Phase,

and than finally…

The Mastery Phase.

In my work with my expatriate clients I have found, that once we know about these stages and the Change Curve, we are so much more equipped to anticipate what we are experiencing and this builds resilience and patience and confidence, safe in the knowledge, that at some point, we will all come through the other side of this change experience. We know that, because the curve says so. We are in a phase of a process, and we WILL come out the other side. It’s powerful knowledge for those early days …

The Honeymoon Phase

The Honeymoon Phase occurs during the first week of arriving in your new country. Everything is exciting and new and you are fascinated by the different culture and all the amazing things you’re going to experience. You’re full of anticipation and are fully engaged. You’re in a fun plateau. This phase doesn’t last very long though because very soon all the challenges of dealing with the practicalities on a daily basis begin. You’ll then start to notice that you’re starting to slip down the curve. Things are not quite so much fun anymore. The Honeymoon Phase is over.

The Culture Shock

You’ve now entered The Culture Shock phase and you start slipping down the Curve. You experience feelings of hostility and frustration towards the host country and its people. You start to use hostile phrases that begin with ‘they always…’ and ‘they never …’. When you hear yourself do this, you’ll recognise that you’re firmly in The Culture Shock phase. You feel very separate and a gulf of foreignness exists between you and your hosts and their culture. This is when coaching can be really beneficial as some people experience this phase with acute feelings of isolation and longing and the expatriation is often under threat at this stage. You are now probably at the bottom of the Change Curve. It usually starts to really hit home at about 4-6 months of being in a new country.

The Adjustment Phase

And then, just when you thought life couldn’t be any bleaker, The Adjustment Phase kicks in. Gradual adaption has started and you have started to be more involved. Less hostile language is being used and you start to recognise that new norms and new patterns indicate that you’re in The Adjustment Phase, and you start to head back up the Curve.

The Mastery Phase

The last phase is called The Mastery Phase. You are now fully integrated in your new country and are fully able to function and participate. You’re right back at the top of The Change Curve again and bingo! You’ve mastered The Change Curve.

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