The 5 Stages of Cultural Learning

Most of us take a little while to learn how to fit into a new community. Often through making mistakes we learn what works and what does not. Typically, there are five stages of learning to get through. These provide us with the insight and the mindset to fit in with the host community, and to overcome the barriers to clear communication across cultures.

  • Catch up
  • Relating
  • Shock
  • Understanding
  • Progress

Catch Up involves a recognition that we do not do things like the host community, and need to learn new ways. It is the process of watching, copying and fitting in.

Relating means connecting with others. This is very useful, because it allows us to accelerate the process of cultural adaptation. Friends (even new ones) will tell us more than we can learn for ourselves.

Shock. Inevitably, things will sometimes go wrong. Some local practice will catch you unawares, and either you or your host may take offence. If you give offence without intending to, just apologise and explain. If someone else offends you, ask yourself if it was intended. If not, don’t take offence.

Understanding. Possibly the hardest part of the integration process is to set aside the reflex of rejecting anything that is ‘not like us’. We must always operate within a country’s range of values or risk being rejected. We must fit in and communicate in the vocabulary (of ideas as well as words) of the host community.

Progress. To understand and cope with cultural diversity is to make progress in our personal development. When we learn more about others we learn more about ourselves. This means recognising and accepting cultural differences, and creating channels for two-way communication.

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enquiries: +353 (0)89 611 7427
alternative: +44 (0)7768 696254

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