Skip to main content

Going to an international school in a new country can give children – and parents – quite a culture shock, something experienced by all new arrivals. 

Briefly, culture shock is just that – a shock at being exposed to an unfamiliar culture. In our own country, we know what to expect and how to do things. In their home country school, children instinctively know the behaviour expectations and how to fit in with the different subcultures. The food and teachers are familiar and everyone speaks the same language in which the whole school communicates.

Stepping into an international school, children don’t know what clothing or music is “cool,” how to relate to all these peers chattering to one another in unfamiliar tongues or what demands these unknown teachers will make. Researches have identified four stages of culture shock that hit newly arrived expatriates:

  • The tourist or honeymoon phase when everything initially seems wonderful, interesting and likeable.        
  • The frustration or crisis phase when the host country reveals all that is different, strange and unlikable and suddenly, being there seems to be a big mistake.                                   
  • Reassessment and recovery, when the new arrival comes to terms with clashes and similarities between their own culture and that of the host country.
  • Finally, there is adjustment and acceptance when the foreigner feels at ease, establishes relationships and begins to co-exist with the culture and accept the way things are done.

School age children take their cues from their parents’ behaviour. They usually do well when they start school, learn new routines and expectations and make a few friends. A wise parent will try reconnecting them with favourite activities as soon as possible.

Unsurprisingly, pre-teens and teens seem to have the hardest time adjusting. Apart from hormones and angst during this stage of development, teens’ peer groups are of major importance in their lives. It can be traumatic for teens to be transplanted. They may feel that this move was a decision imposed upon them by their parents for the sole reason of separating them from their friends and everything that is vital to their existence. Anger and resentment often occur as this forces them to become more temporarily dependent on their parents until they can make new friends and "fit in" somewhere. 

Attend any orientation programmes the school offers. Make it a priority to contact your school’s PTA and talk to other parents of teens and discover what the accepted practices are regarding allowances, curfews, and parties held in homes and other activities. Find out if drugs and alcohol are problems in the community. You will want to allow your teen an appropriate amount of freedom based upon age, your own beliefs and values, and a consideration of what “all the other kids” really do.

Encourage teens to get involved in after-school activities and to invite their new acquaintances over. Ask your child’s teacher for a list of classmates’ phone numbers and try and set up play dates for younger children. Within a couple of months, they’ll soon have a set of exciting new friends and settle into a routine.

by

Related articles


  • Special Needs introduction

    Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced considerable difficulties, frustrations or social and emotional problems.  Over the years, diagnosis of and provision for SEN have improved, but both can still be a minefield. Identifying different kinds of special educational needs Few children fit a condition perfectly – if they do, we tend to say they are a ‘classic’ case. Most will not be straightforward: perhaps a dyslexic with dyspraxia and a touch of ADD, or a child with ASD who also has Down’s syndrome. Just as special needs are hard to…

  • The Good Schools Guide online subscription

    Find the best school for your child. One month subscription - £0.49 per day Three month subscription - £0.41 per day Six month subscription - £0.33 per day One year subscription - £0.29 per day Register for instant access to: ☑ Search for more than 30000 schools in our parent friendly interactive directory. ☑ Create and save lists of schools via My Schools. ☑ Use our comparison grid to get an exam results overview of schools you are interested in. ☑ Find comprehensive advice on state and independent schools, tutors and special needs. ☑ Receive our monthly newsletter. For further…

  • Finding a state grammar school

    Counties such as Kent or Buckinghamshire are ‘selective authorities’ and most families will have at least one grammar school close to where they live. Elsewhere, for example in Reading or Kingston-on-Thames, there are just one or two grammar schools and competition for places at these is ferocious. How to find a state grammar school Grammar schools are located in 36 English local authorities. Almost half of these are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston,…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    As proud parents, we all know our children are unique. They're smarter than anyone else's, funnier, certainly more attractive, better behaved and above all bursting with the kind of talent that would leave Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Bell and Charlotte Church standing. And for some extraordinary - though totally understandable - reason, everyone but us seems blind to our offspring's God-given artistic gifts.

  • State boarding schools

    If you think your child would benefit from a boarding school education, but are put off by the high fees and consequent limited social mix of a typical independent boarding school, you may find that a state boarding school is the answer


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

30000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent friendly interactive directory.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1200+ schools.
Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide to North or South London.

Your subscription will activate on checkout

The Good Schools Guide London South

The Good Schools Guide to North London

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

Newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Perfect partners: Netmums and The Good Schools Guide

 

 


For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide London North or The Good Schools Guide London South.