How I navigated these stages of culture shock when I moved abroad

When I moved abroad four years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I was open to any opportunity; a great adventure is what I got. Except it wasn’t until I settled in one country that I experienced actual culture shock.

Sara Burdick
5 min readSep 29, 2022


Bogota Colombia, stage 1, of moving abroad.

When you are traveling around, moving in a group of others doing the same thing, it is still a protected bubble. I was in the backpacker’s group, doing the regular route most people follow. It was easy to avoid culture shock.

It was not until I started interacting with locals and staying places longer than most backpackers that it hit me, culture shock. I was thinking about this concept the other day, how since I returned from my US vacation, I have been at peace.

It is a very odd feeling for me, as most of my life has been an up-and-down rollercoaster of emotions, and now at least today, I feel a bit more at ease — a bit of a weird feeling. I am not used to this; I always worry about the other shoe dropping. It still takes up a bit of space, but it is far in the back and doesn’t get as much room as it used to.

Back to culture shock, when you are traveling around, you do not go past phase one of a country. Well, at least I did, according to what I have found online regarding this concept. It has always been one to fascinate me as I enjoy being anywhere new, and when I have seen what I want, I leave.

Hence no time to go into stages 2–4 of the culture shock curve.
So what the hell am I talking about?

I am referring to the Culture Shock Curve, which most of us who live abroad will experience, and I wanted to see now that I have been in one town for over a year if I have ridden the wave.

The culture shock curve. Image credit: Participate Learning Blog, linked below.

The honeymoon period is the first phase.

Yes, I have been here, and usually, when the honeymoon period is over in a country, I move on; I mean, don’t we all want only the good…



Sara Burdick

I quit the rat race after working as a nurse for 16 years. Travel and Storyteller. I live in Colombia.