If you have ever found yourself unpacking suitcases with your belongings somewhere far from home, you are probably familiar with a peculiar feeling that often accompanies change. It dwells on the continuum of excitement and anxiety, elation and dread, and depending on the hour, can leap from one extreme to the other. Then, as the fog of jetlag wears off, you meet your new neighbors and figure out where to buy food, this feeling settles deeper in your stomach as lingering low-grade stress.
A widely used framework for demystifying the stress of cultural transitions is Kate Berardo’s 5Rs of Culture Change. According to the 5R model, the main areas that are affected when we move across cultures are Routines, Reactions, Roles, Relationships, and Reflections about ourselves. The strength of the model lies in helping individuals understand the causes of transition stress and as a result, adapt their coping strategies accordingly. Berardo (2012) explores the significance of each of the areas affected by change, outlines a list of potential impacts on individuals, and offers suggestions for their management. Given the psychological significance of routines, reactions, roles, relationships and reflections for our wellbeing, the 5Rs can also be a valuable tool during change in general, guiding us towards a better understanding of ourselves and our responses to stress in times of transitions.