Individual culture shock is well-known but researchers collective culture shock
suggest that Eastern European countries are showing symptoms of ‘collective culture shock‘ as they undergo a transition from their communist heritage. Post-communist countries exhibit characteristics like an irritation about authority, diffusion (mix-up) of private and business spheres, a lack of confidence and orientation, a blockade to take action, rising xenophobia and fluctuating levels of self-esteem.

These reactions are the result of confrontation with a foreign culture – in this case foreign ideology. Unfortunately, this “collective culture shock” influences management and business relations and causes problems…

In the transition from planned economy and communist culture to market economy and democratic culture, management styles in Eastern European countries will need to undergo a significant change. Gerhard Fink and Claudia Feichtinger in their research* suggest that:

a major emphasis in management training should be shifted from teaching technical know-how, control and performance to the creation of trustful relations, leadership, motivation and teamwork. Training should help the middle management and future East european managers to find orientation on their own, to be able to help themselves in critical situations and to overcome the collective culture shock.”

What is Collective Culture Shock?

Collective culture shock shows great similarities to individual culture shock, but as a social process, it takes a much longer time than the individual culture shock process and has similar phases:

Source: "Collective Culture Shock" Gerhard Fink and Claudia Feichtinger

Phase 1: Now we construct capitalism“ – Collapse of communism

The collapse of communism is characterised by a phase of overwhelming euphoria. People know precisely what they want: freedom, democracy, and a market economy. The level of orientation is very high. However, almost nobody recognizes that the patterns of behaviour acquired and internalised during the communist era have collapsed and are obsolete (duration: 1-2 years).

Phase 2: “The experiment could fail. We are sceptical about the future”

While at the strategic level efforts are made to build a new society according to Western European models, people experience disorientation and pain. It seems that what is valid today does not fit in tomorrow. As a consequence, a large number of people are discouraged. People become resigned or refuse to take action which they suppose would be unsuccessful anyway. A strong desire for safety and shelter emerges (duration: 1-2 years).

Phase 3: first signs of success “We shall manage”

The major institutions of the new system have been established and are recognised. First results are achieved and newly acquired patterns of behaviour more often lead to success: an economic miracle is emerging (duration: 5-7 years).

Phase 4: “We’ve got it”

The problems of transition have been overcome. There is widespread opinion that this was the right way to do it. New problems start to emerge, but behaviours generated in the transition period still prevail. At the end of this phase, the founders of the present system will be deprived of power, the values of transition (reconstruction) will be cleared away (duration: 10-15 years).

Phase 5: “Everything’s normal”

The final phase of normalisation and adjustment – only historians will remember the root of the differences which still exist and which still have a certain influence on actual behavioural patterns. Although outsiders feel this difference, insiders have a strong feeling of shared values with the rest of Europe (duration: 25-35 years).

*Adapted from: “Towards a Theory of Collective Culture Shock”, Gerhard Fink and Claudia Feichtinger, 1998.

Expat advice on various countries can be found
on this expert site:

My other articles related to culture shock can be found here:

What Is Culture Shock?

The Stages of Adjusting To A New Culture

Before You Go: What To Do Before You Leave

Overcoming Culture Shock

The Classic 5-Stage Culture Shock Model

Rhinesmith’s 10 Stages of Culture Shock

Collective Culture Shock

Advice For  Expats Moving to the Arab World


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