McCormick and Chapman's Expatriation Life Cycle Curve

McCormick and Chapman's Expatriation Life Cycle Curve


Whatever the destination, expatriation is a challenge which, if sufficiently well prepared, becomes a fabulous opportunity for personal development.

But before doing so, it is essential to be aware of the different emotional cycles punctuated by euphoria, exaltation, doubts and sometimes even discouragement (see diagram below) that expatriates may go through. This is known as "culture shock", a state of being that was first defined in 1960 by the Canadian anthropologist Kalervo Oberg.

McCormick and Chapman's Expatriation Life Cycle Curve


Whether you are a first-time expatriate or a long-time expatriate, McCormick and Chapman's Expatriation Life Cycle Curve allows you to measure how far you have come so far. Here is a description of the different stages:

  1. “Honeymoon" phase: the initial phase that plunges the expatriate into a euphoric state of mind, under the sign of discovery and wonder. It is a time of exploration of another culture, another lifestyle, and sometimes a different climate.
  2. Crisis" phase: This phase, which is also called "culture shock", is a feeling created by the anxiety and disorientation of an individual immersed in an environment different from that of his/her origins. This occurs in both the professional and private spheres.
  3. Adaptation/acclimatisation" phase: phase during which morale rises. The expatriate then tries to decipher the behaviours and attitudes of the foreign country in order to appropriate them. The expatriate's view of the environment will gradually change, his or her expectations will change, his or her discourse will change, leading to new motivations and desires, and ultimately to the development of new projects.
  4. Mastery/maturity" phase: during this last phase, the expatriate finds his bearings. They appreciate their new lifestyle and are fully at ease in their new environment. He/she is much more self-confident and increasingly positive about his/her new life. He knows how to function effectively in the new culture. Fulfilment and satisfaction are high. This phase is experienced positively.

Please note that the duration of each period depends mainly on the personality and the ability of the person to adapt to the new situation. In order to overcome the crisis and adaptation phases as well as possible, it is important to be well prepared by preparing one's logbook and analysing the key people in the expatriation.