Meet Henry, he is a sharp and quick-witted rich young adult from the High Medieval Ages(1000-1347). He can be described as someone with decent adaptability skills, though not much

He found a time-machine that another time traveler accidentally left behind. He inadvertently starts the machine and time-travels to this year in an advanced city like Singapore, Tokyo or London. The time machine only works once, there is no option of going back. He obviously will not be used to the world that we have now and will be extremely befuddled. Fortunately, you know that he was going to come and you are ready to help him here.

Question: How will he or how long will it take for him to adapt to our current world? Or is it even possible for him to fully adapt and blend in as a modern human like us?

Important thing to note (citation from quora):

The first error would be to assume that medieval Europe was in any way a primitive society. It was not; it was as sophisticated as today’s society in art, philosophy, and literature, and many aspects of modern technology date back to the Middle Ages

The first problem you will face is communicating with him, the English language used in the medieval ages are different from modern English. But lets just say you are already prepared for this and already learned the English that Henry used.

The very first huge difference he will notice is obviously the environment around him, flashing neon lights and colorful skyscrapers everywhere, horseless carts zooming at lighting speed, weird looking humans wearing suits with wires in their ears while staring at a weird brick on their hands

Medieval city Modern advanced city
enter image description here enter image description here

How long would it take to convince him that all these techs are not some sort of black magic sorcery?, If its even possible before he goes crazy

To measure the technology level in the high middle ages, here are some inventions and technologies they used:

Messengers were often used in the medieval era. They would travel across the land to communicate the messages of the king or queen to others. Medieval people often used particular clothing, designs, badges or banners to visually communicate information to other people. In many cases, someone wanting to send a letter from one place to another would need to know or find someone who was traveling there anyway.

Oh and one important thing: he also needs to learn our modern language and learn to communicate with today's people, fortunately he is a smart guy so teaching him a new language shouldn't take too long

Lets take a look at some other factors:

Henry wears tunics or jackets with stockings, leggings and breeches just like every other rich nobleman there. Women in his era wore long gowns with sleeveless tunics and wimples to cover their hair.

Our clothings will be considered very unvirtuous by Henry, you will also have to help him use and learn the clothings we use today.

The food types that he ate aren't so different from the food we eat now(cereals, rice, meat, etc). We have colored drinks and packaged instant foods which medieval ages don't have but adapting to these food types wont be a big problem. The eating etiquette for rich medievals are different from ours but i also don't think it will be that big of a problem.

Okay after some time, you finally managed to teach him the logic behind these new technologies and how they work. Here comes another problem. Adjusting to our social life will be a huge problem for Henry.

In his era, the rich and noblemen are very privileged,

enter image description here

Now feudalism does not exist anymore, he is no longer rich here and has to try living as a normal modern human and follow our society rules here. This will be a drastic change for him.

Some other things we need to teach him: Witches do not exist here, we have doctors and scientists instead. We have a cure for common diseases now, a fever will not kill you. All genders have equal rights. Beating and abusing children randomly is not allowed. We don't really have arranged marriages anymore. And loads more...

Another thing i forgot to mention: he will lose all his family members, love partner, kids(if he had any), friends and everybody he knows which will cause severe depression and will require a ton of psychological treatments. Better act fast before he gets eaten up with suicidal thoughts :/

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 4:24
  • $\begingroup$ there's a TV series called "beforigners" that kinda is based on this premise. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ What is the paperwork situation: is this guy an illegal immigrant? If he gets pulled in by the cops and they can't pin an ID on him, he is in for a world of low-level frustration. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulJohnson hmm yeah I didn't thought of that at all, this will be a new problem $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand! If the OP have created boy wonder Henry purposefully able to be adaptable to our "Blaze new world" Why did place the question? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 3:28

13 Answers 13


I'd say in less than 2 months he will learn how the base system works and manage to fend for himself, and in less than 2 years he will be indistinguishable from a normal future person.

Humans usually learn vital things pretty fast.

A rich CEO in another country might never learn the local language, they don't need to. There are plenty of rich foreigners in China, who never learned the language even after decades there.

The average guy thrown in another country will learn the language to a basic level in a few weeks, because otherwise they will literally starve, and will become fluent after a few years of total immersion.

I studied French for 5 years and I hardly understand when french people speak and I can't formulate an answer, but I learned Italian in 1 month by living there, Russian in about the same amount of time and English in the last 7 months by nerding on videogames and youtube.

7 months ago I couldn't even count to 10 in english.

Tribal people adapt perfectly when thrown into modern cities, I used to live in a village for example.

Therefore a rich noble guy would have it even easier than me. And this is only my opinion but I suppose the richest guy in the medieval era would sacrifice an eye and an arm to live in our era, things they could buy with bars of gold at the time they can now buy for a few cents. To listen to your favourite song all you need is to press the play button, no need to organize a theather. If you get injured today, that's just a cool story to tell your friends. If that happened then, you'd be praying for your soul as you ache and wish to die sooner.

And even the most indoctrinated people can change their mind if you aproach to their level. My mother was a flat earther, antivax and believed blood donations were a form of satanic vampirism...my father believed jesus was an alien and we were created from monkeys having sex with angels... Just needed to let them talk first and explain their viewpoints and suggest to pay more attention to their own logical holes. They are "normal" now.

So I'd immagine a noble guy would probably be mentally capable of maintaining a "noble discussion etiquette" and thus could easily be reasoned with.


All he needs to do is something taboo and get the police called on him, he might get either directly sent to a homeless shelter or if he did something bad, sent to a jail for a few days or weeks.

(If we ignore police corruption and abuse of power, he will be fine)

The moment he gets into a homeless or refugee shelter he will be taken care of and get free modern clothes and food.

The food is usually paid by the government or private non-profit agencies, the clothes are donated by the average people. A lot of countries have boxes where you can throw your old clothes and they will be sent to shelters were people may need them.

Now he is fed, dressed and all he needs is to socialize a little to understand the language, what comes next is up to you storyteller.

  • 14
    $\begingroup$ Not sarcasm: You should write a book $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ 7 month from cannot count to writing this answer? That's very fast learning! $\endgroup$
    – justhalf
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ I was about to suggest some minor modifications to your answer (capitalizing French and English for instance) but then I got to the point where you write 7 months ago I couldn't even count to 10 in english. Holy crap, if this is remotely true, you are extraordinary. I am bi-lingual in two European languages and have been speaking English daily for the last 30 years and my language abilities are fair at best. What you are writing is amazing. $\endgroup$
    – WoJ
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ @WoJ learning a language from 0 in 7 months might seem a lot but consider I was in lockdown and spending 10 or more hours a day in FFXIV and the rest of the day on youtube or forums to read guides and interact with other players even out of the game $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Rad140 Considering everything, really don't underestimate your own awesomeness. Seriously dude, you're good. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 20:16

I like this question. Thanks for posting it.

This does not seem like an unusual situation. Refugees arrive every day from lands that are culturally different, organized on different social principles, and may be not as technologically advanced. These situations are addressed by social services groups (formal or volunteer organizations).

Note that your question is "how long to adapt" not "how long to succeed". The former can be rapid if the visitor is to meet their primary needs: health, food, shelter. The latter might be fast (go on talk shows, get an agent, get paid to be interviewed by historians and scholars) or slow (it might be difficult to make a living as a feudal aristocrat or pursue legal claims on properties they might have owned a thousand years ago). Sticking with the 'refugee' model of adaption, there are plenty of examples of physicians and engineers from abroad moving to a new country and only being able to get jobs as drivers, cooks, or laborers. Is this success? To some, it might be if they can survive and their children can be free and someday be successful.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It should be noted that, for a feudal noble, even a life as a cook or a cab driver might be a step up - no more risk of death and disease? Microwave ovens? Airplanes? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 8:59

He will ignore a lot.

I've been friends with multiple immigrants from foreign countries who came as adults, including some from places that lacked modern technology.

A lot of things won't be an issue. Bright lights? Their hometowns are often brighter, because there's less of a constant haze of pollution, and people could use paint. Weird fashion? Whatever, you don't care what people wear. That's what they do mostly. They ignore weird modern things.

He needs to learn to move.

What is a big issue is the constant gate keeping humans do. There's a weird flashing light, and if you enter the road when it's one colour you die. There's a complex mess of arcane signs, and if you ignore them you die. There's a series of buttons you press inside vehicles and if you press the wrong one you go to a random place you can't easily escape from, a hidden hell inside a concrete shell. You need to navigate an artificial mind to use a moving carriage and bypass checks and barriers.

That would require a lot of effort to adapt them to, so they could move freely through the world without attracting attention.

How to help them.

An apple smart phone would help. People from foreign countries generally get very good at using apple smart phones to help them navigate problems, because they are made to be very intuitive even for old people.

From personal experience, and the news, this is a common reaction of illiterate in English people.

“I just taught my Persian grandmother how to use her new iPhone. She’s 77 and speaks no English,” said Soheil Arzang, a 27-year-old law student in Palo Alto, California. “With a Windows PC there are so many buttons, it’s confusing. I converted my parents officially to Apple iPhones, Macs and iPads.”

What they basically need is to be able to call and text you if there's a problem, google basic problems, follow a map, take pictures and see pictures, and read their emails. That's all. Simple is best, because more complicated devices take a lot of effort to understand.

Social changes.

It wouldn't be that hard to explain the differences.

enter image description here

The upper levels of the image are a bit suspect, but most of those aspects you don't interact with. It should give them a basic idea of who not to mess with.

Most of your other ideas they'll likely ignore.

Some other things we need to teach him: Witches do not exist here

"They were a big problem in my day. What happened, did your scientists kill all your witches? They were riding around with snakes in their tunic in my day. People online claim they're witches. I guess your scientists didn't get them all."

we have doctors and scientists instead.

"Sure, lets trust some random rich people."

We have a cure for common diseases now

"Sure, cure me."

All genders have equal rights.

"Everything I googled said otherwise. Both the feminists and the MRAs agreed we lack equal rights."

Beating and abusing children randomly is not allowed.

"In public, sure."

We don't really have arranged marriages anymore.

"I get that, but why would you want to marry someone terrible your elders hated? You'd bring shame to your family."

They're not gonna believe all your random assertions about reality, especially since so many people on the internet will validate them.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ "because they are made to be very intuitive even for old people." The 70 year olds I work with beg to differ. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 2:13
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    $\begingroup$ Intuitive? Apple? Nope. Fanboying a company doesn't seem useful here, since it is neither necessary nor entirely correct. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ It's one of the core principles they do stuff on. And, it's one of the key reasons consumers buy them e.g. reuters.com/article/mobile-global-idUSL1E8N77BL20121213 "“I just taught my Persian grandmother how to use her new iPhone. She’s 77 and speaks no English,” said Soheil Arzang, a 27-year-old law student in Palo Alto, California. “With a Windows PC there are so many buttons, it’s confusing. I converted my parents officially to Apple iPhones, Macs and iPads.” From personal experience, this is a very common reaction to electronic devices. It's relevant to medieval person. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 10:06
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    $\begingroup$ That feudalism image is weird. The left mostly consists of rulers, i.e. people who can tell you what to do and put your head on a pike if you refuse. The right mostly consists of ... rich people? Most people probably won't treat those people any differently from anyone else. Using percentage of population as a measure of any sort of rank is deeply flawed. People with RPI deficiency make up a much smaller percentage of the population that central bankers, so would they be at the top of the social hierarchy? $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep that quote makes no sense. It compares an iPhone to a Windows PC. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 13:57

It's going to be very difficult (if at all possible), particularly the social aspects.

Personally, I don't think the technological changes would be that big an issue. Sure, phones and cars would probably seem like witchcraft at first, but ultimately "window dressing". The social changes, and particularly entering a non-feudal society would be... tough to put it mildly.

Specifically, let's take a look at the life that he presumably had beforehand:

  • Birthright Lands: His father presumably owns an estate and, by extension, a county or other large chunk of land which he manages. Every day when he wakes up, he knows his future is generally safe. One day, his father will die and all the land and duties associated will become his. This will happen not because he is skilled or hardworking, it will happen because he was born. The (effective) loss of these lands and a future will be devastating to his psyche.

  • Human Help: Does he know how to cook? Does he know how to dress himself? One of the biggest things that's changed in wealthy modern cities over the last couple hundred years is that the price of people has gotten astronomically higher. As a rich young lordling, he has had, since his birth, people waiting on him hand and foot, who, when he says "jump", they only ask, "how high, mi'lord?". Even if our lives are luxurious in terms of conveniences even low-class people can afford, the lack of human help is going to need serious readjustment.

  • No marketable skills: As a rich young lordling, he was presumably training to fill his father's boots eventually. This involves becoming literate, learning mathematics (accounting specifically), physical combat, and a whole slew of social skills that are needed to manage both peasantry and nobility alike. Unfortunately, basically all these skills are useless to him in modern times. The language will need to be relearned and any accounting knowledge he has will be pathetic compared to today's standards. Even the social skills are shaped by his feudal mindset, and wouldn't get him very far outside of certain scenarios (notably, he might have the most luck in Japan where tradition still holds strongly in the workplace and "honor" or "face" is taken very seriously).

  • Feudalism Fundamentals: This is hard to describe, but I think it's a big one. Back then, people (peasantry and nobility alike) believed in it, and genuinely just thought that nobles were just born better. He's been getting a non-stop stream of "you're special" for his entire life since birth, and transitioning into a world where this isn't the case could cause a psychological disconnect.

It's commonly said that "it's never to late to learn a skill", but for your protagonist, it will be difficult. Compared to his age group, he's over a decade behind. I mean, our modern youth is ridiculously educated: by the time they graduate high-school equivalent, they've had a whopping 12 years of 5-days-a-week full-time learning. Sure, an older person can learn faster and at a higher level than a kid because they presumably have more discipline, but it's going to be extremely disheartening to be a person who is uneducated while people his age could've casually run circles around most "highly educated" people of his time.

Personally, I don't think that this person could ever adapt completely and become a productive member of society, because unless they have an iron-will and/or someone willing to essentially baby-sit him for years, they're probably going to get stuck in a self-reinforcing depressive spiral.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Most jobs today require no previous skill other than having functioning arms and being able to speak, and they do it usually takes only a few months of in-job paid training. Only the rarest jobs require specific decades of training $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ Or he could be a private teacher for dead languages and ancient sword fighting...not everyone is into that, but the few people who are, they will pay lots! $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Rad140 A lot of jobs come with the assumption that the employee is literate and can do basic calculations. Plus lots and lots of unwritten rules such as "electricity and water do not mix well", "do not pull plasticbags over your head" etc. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ My point isn't that there aren't any jobs he could do, but rather that he might not want to do them. Sure, he could teach sword fighting at a ren-faire but would he really be happy with that? It's be like taking a top CEO from today, stripping them of all their wealth, and then making them into a handwriting tutor. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 5:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Dragongeek: But how does not wanting to work differ from many modern people? E.g today there's a Washington Post article headlined "Why America has 8.4 million unemployed when there are 10 million job openings" - or something like that. The article is paywalled, so I won't link it, but searching for "0 million job openings" returns about 14 billion hits. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 16:29

Bring him to an Amish Community

There is no reason to leave him in a major city. Amish communities have standards of living and culture that are very similar to the medieval period which would all be very familiar to him. The one big difference would be that he would have to adapt to the life of a lowly peasant, but this was not an uncommon occurrence in the medieval period.

Members of the nobility were often exiled for various reasons and forced to live below thier station. Being a stranger in a strange land, the noble would be devastated, but fully understand that he was living in a state of exile.

While a noble would not have a lot of transferable skills to the modern world, he would know (at least in theory) a lot about how to live an Amish life style, and may even be able to bring certain wisdom about primitive living that has since been lost. Because his entire life revolves around understanding how to organize a primitive economy, he could even eventually elevate his status and prosper knowing only what he already knows.

What's more is that the Amish know of the outside world pretty well. So, if he decides he wants to leave, they know how to prepare him for what to expect.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Except that the Amish are a religious community of heretics... $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ Going from a life of luxury (at least in the sense of not having to do anything yourself) to a life of daily physical labour seems like a much bigger adjustment than adjusting to the modern world to me (both in terms of the psychological toll and one's ability to actually thrive). I'm pretty sure the Amish typically aren't all that open to strangers and don't prepare their people for the outside world. I've heard that lacking the knowledge and skills to survive in the outside world is one of the biggest hurdles for people who want to leave the Amish community. $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 The high medieval period was a before the inquisition when many parts of Europe still had significant pagan populations that intermingled with Christians. Depending on the exact point in the high medieval period he comes form it could even be pre-crusades; so, having different beliefs would not have been nearly the problem you may assume. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @NotThatGuy "at least in the sense of not having to do anything yourself" <- This does not mean the nobility were lazy. Fuedalism meant that the nobility could be called away to war at any time; so, the lords lived lives very similar to today's pro-athletes. Yes, they were rich and privileged, but most of them (especially the younger ones) were constantly training, exorcising, and otherwise preparing themselves for the next war. Sweeting in the fields with a scythe is not really much different than sweeting in the courtyard with a dane axe. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ "I've heard that lacking the knowledge and skills to survive in the outside world is one of the biggest hurdles for people who want to leave the Amish community" <- I said knowing of, not knowing how to. I was just thinking that it could be a reasonable stepping stone getting to hear about things like cars and phones before actually being exposed to them. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 19:34

Dropped down town in Singapore or London, you say ? Well the first weeks will be the most difficult. After his arrival, his clothing would get noticed immediately. Children follow him and gaze at him and make a fool of him. There is no means of communication yet, so he would probably have to undergo humiliations passively. To get a roof over his head, he'll need some means, like gold. He is a rich man, but how much gold did he have on him, when he accidentally started the time machine ? When he took too much gold, he will get robbed and may be killed in the city. When he did not take any gold with him, he would need to resort to begging for money and help, to stay alive. This must be quite difficult and inconvenient for a young man who was used to superiority and abundance in his time.

Now suppose our medieval bloke copes with the situation, and he is good looking. He'll get noticed for that, his clothing may even help to be regarded as some kind of artist. There's mystery around him, many people will be interested to know more about him. Supposing he is able to build some social life, have friends.. In a few months, he will have picked up the language. Journalists get a hold of his incredible story and he will be news item #1 on a lot of media. It depends on his personality and his friends, what happens. A cult could arise around him, a cultural revival of medieval times, with our guest as the hero, and a source of thruth. At some point, scientists will pay attention too: this guy arrived in a time machine. Where is that device and how does it work..

When the hype is over, he'd probably end up like some world famous autist savants do: researched by science, safely encapsulated in some "institute" where they can develop their talents, among people who are interested and able to understand and connect.

It could also be a little more dynamic.

My 2021 Catweazle novel would probably spend some time on a wild goose chase, involving alledged offspring of ancient ancestors related to this noble young man, claiming they suddenly lost family members when he arrived, because he did not have children in medieval times, changing his future and our present time. Of course, this is all regarded conspiracy, but our poor noble man has no answers to that. They would demand he returns to the middle ages immediately. Meanwhile, some genious scientist found out how the time machine works.. and on the last page he returns to his own time.

  • $\begingroup$ If someone learns about his knowledge of the past, he'd probably be rich as a source ...no need to tell anyone he's from the past $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ "He is a rich man, but how much gold did he have on him" - if he was dressed for going out, it is reasonable to assume that he had some jewelry on him. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander jewelry would not yield so much, for a newbie. Medieval artwork has a small and elite market.. you have to know the channels.. and when you would try sell medieval jewelry outside these circuits, you'd probably get the gold weight, plus bonus for the stones. Some coins may be more effective ! Still.. when you need food and shelter in Singapore or London, jewelry you wear, or a few gold coins wouldn't allow you to pay for a hotel room very long. The biggest risk is the first two weeks. He has to launch after that in some way, else he will perish and probably die. My guy is lucky. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 17:11

Henry will take a little longer than he lives to fully adapt.

How many people do you know who grew up ten years too soon who never really adapt to modern life? My own parents were born just as the Great Depression segued into the lead-up to World War II -- Hitler consolidating his power, Stalin pushing Lenin out of the way, airplanes switching from biplanes with fabric covering to all-metal speed demons (and the promise, if you had access to the right publications, of airplanes that didn't even need propellers!). Now, in their mid-80s, they don't even use modern smart phones, and the only reason they have a computer is because my mother learned to use them on the job when they were new enough only big businesses and government agencies had them.

I know people my age (born after Sputnik but before Gagarin's orbit) and even a little younger who aren't really comfortable with this stuff. My father would be more comfortable sleeping on the ground alongside a trout stream (at 85!) than living in a city like New York, Tokyo, London, or Singapore -- even if he didn't have to learn a new language to do it.

Now, picture someone who didn't have the advantage of living through the last five or six decades when all this stuff was invented more or less gradually.

Henry will learn his way around; he'll learn the language, and to read (as long as it's not Chinese or Japanese), not to walk against the light, make and take calls on a smart phone, he might even learn to drive (not where I live, please) -- but he'll never be "adapted" to the level of comfort even a city dwelling immigrant in his sixties or eighties today has, never mind that of someone his own durational age who grew up where he lands.

He'll be a "stranger in a strange land" for all of his days -- and he won't have Mike Smith's fictional ability to adjust to the alien.

  • $\begingroup$ I know plenty of older people who get well around in big cities $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, most people living in big cities, are in fact...old people...because the elderly usually have more money than young people and big cities were never and will never be cheap. And the most advanced and newest technologies are first used by the rich...which by coincidence happen to be older people. $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't share your pessimism, @Zeiss Ikon.. our Henri is not an old man. He is in the lucky circumstance of being a "sharp and witted young adult". As soon as Henri will realize and accept the fact it will be difficult or impossible to return home, to his loved ones, he will adjust to new circumstances. If you drop an 18 year old Ecuadorian in Singapore, he will do fine after a while, despite the huge cultural differences. Old people carry the burden of nostalgia, young people don't. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Why is it necessary to do all those "modern world" things if they don't add value to your life? Plenty of people don't. I have 5 computers sitting on or under my desk at the moment, yet don't have a smart phone because it doesn't do anything I want done. I drive a car, but I also ride my horse. I have an airplane (with a propellor :-)) but use it to take me to mountains, deserts, &c. I choose not to live in a city, and have worked hard to be able to afford not to. And FWIW, some of my favorite music comes from the 12th century :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 3:51

It depends on what you mean by "adapt". And it may well depend on individual differences. For instance

"The very first huge difference he will notice is obviously the environment around him, flashing neon lights and colorful skyscrapers everywhere..."

Now I am a product of the modern world: indeed, I've made a good living at working pretty close to the bleeding edge of tech. Yet I can't adapt to life in an urban environment. (I've tried.) I can just about survive long enough to make my way out, but I'm miserable and on the verge of sensory overload most of the time.

So if you really want to help your time traveller (and you have significant resources), you get him out of the city as fast as you can. Find a nice rural research campus/think tank, where he can be interviewed by historians, and learn to handle the useful parts of tech, without having to deal with sensory overload.

"Or is it even possible for him to fully adapt and blend in as a modern human like us?"

Is it even necessary to fully blend in? There are lots of people who eschew various parts of the modern world, yet manage to live fairly happy & productive lives despite that.

"How long would it take to convince him that all these techs are not some sort of black magic sorcery?"

Is it even necessary to convince him that it's not sorcery? (Of the "white magic" sort, of course.) To maybe 95% of modern 1st world people, that's exactly what it is: magic. They've just learned the spells ("Hey, Siri", for instance) needed to use their magic devices.


What an interesting question. I've often thought about what it would be like to be transported to a different time. I think it would be much like moving to a new country and having to learn the language and adapt to strange customs. I know from personal experience that it is not an easy process to go through, although there are many rewards. The answer to how long it takes to adapt is that like all learning experiences, adaptation to a new culture is a long and complex process, and it is different for everyone. People have very different levels of resourcefulness, and different attitudes toward change. I would think that examining Henry's assets and deficits in this regard would make an interesting story.

A Couple of Ways to Think About It:

You might want to research the "stages of culture shock", which is a construct developed by anthropologist Kalervo Oberg for understanding the process Henry would likely be faced with in adapting to a new culture and language. Wikipedia has an in-depth definition & description of the problem. According to Wikipedia, there are four stages one would go through to adapt to a new culture:





You might also want to look at stages of grief. In a sense, Henry has lost all his family, friends and everything he knows, BY ACCIDENT. It is reasonable to assume that he would experience grief as it becomes clear to him that he can never return. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist and author of the book “On Death and Dying,” identified five stages of grief, leading to acceptance of loss.






Henry will be undergoing both of these processes, while having much to learn simultaneously.

Using familiar constructs that describe these processes will help you outline a logical trajectory for Henry's behavior & reactions to things. While he will have many wonders to explore, he will also experience disorientation, along with feelings of isolation and loss. He will need to be resourceful, and have a capacity for forming new & trusting relationships or he may suffer from depression that undermines his ability to adapt.

One of his strengths may be that he has a good education, since he is from a rich family, and may already have some experience learning another language. Maybe he studied Latin. And maybe he has some practice using his noggin.

But also, coming from a privileged background, he may be hampered by a sense of entitlement that would make arriving with only the clothes on his back, and no modern work skills quite a hardship. What other character traits does he possess that would either help or hinder him in adjusting to his new life?

I look forward to hearing more about Henry. He certainly has an adventure before him.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting answer and great points, Welcome to Stack Exchange :D $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 4:32

It depends if there is any part of the new world that he finds to be traumatic or in direct conflict with his personal values and principles. If you look at survivors of totalitarian churches, it takes about two years to adjust emotionally to the idea that everything they ever believed was false, alongside building up skills. But dealing with grief, trauma, loss, confusion, and the fallout of being lied to typically takes ten years or more. Particularly if he sees that people -- loved ones -- from his own time were suffering unnecessarily from preventable diseases and distorted thought processes. Yet he might also feel alienated by destructive choices of today that would never happen in his own time. If you're asking how long before he feels like he is a valued member of contemporary society and is totally accepting of current society, the answer is probably never.


He already has a framework for coping with a totally strange world: he might think he has died and gone to heaven/hell; or maybe taken to fairyland.

In the tale, Oisín (a human hero) and Niamh (a woman of the Otherworld) fall in love. She brings him to Tír na nÓg on a magical horse that can travel over water. After spending what seems to be three years there, Oisín becomes homesick and wants to return to Ireland. Niamh reluctantly lets him return on the magical horse, but warns him never to touch the ground. When he returns, he finds that 300 years have passed in Ireland. Oisín falls from the horse. He instantly becomes elderly, as the years catch up with him, and he quickly dies of old age.

The problem is whether this model will help Henry survive, or make life more difficult.


Unless time travel machines are public knowledge at the destination time your traveler could easily end up in a mental institution or in holding for deportation.

During the initial culture shock your traveller is very much at risk a running afoul of the law as they would be completely unfamiliar with many of our laws, customs and even etiquette.

Once the traveller is detained the police would very likely attempt to verify their identity. This would be a drawn out process since the person doesn't have papers and communication would be very difficult - especially when it comes to advanced concepts like "nationality" and "passport" which are things a medival person would not be familiar with.

If you want to get an idea of the linguistic difficulties Icelandic is a pretty good analogue as its relatively unchanged from old norse while Norwegian has evolved significantly. Both languages have many words in cognate but Icelandic is barely intelligable to the average Norwegian as the pronouciation and meaning is significantly different. If you then threw that person into Tokyo it would be extemely difficult to find someone who even knows what langauge they are speaking and who can translate it.

If Henry even manages to communicate that he is a medival lord and that he entered a strange contraption and ended up there its very likely that it would be concluded that he has a dissociative disorder and it would be extemely difficult for him to prove otherwise.

That said if he was extremely adaptive and lucky and manages to fly under the radar long enough to learn the langauge, technology and customs and overcome the difficulties of not having a documented identity, lack of any useful and documented education I would seriously doubt that he would ever get above the lowest rungs in modern society.


How long will it take for a medieval human to adapt to our current world?

Never! Period!

How long will it take for a XXI century human to adapt to medieval world?

Same thing, but worst! Today we have antidepressant medicine to give your from past traveler. In the middle Ages they could make a trepanation into your head, that simple.

How to explain your travel visitor that we are in the future and not being part of a medieval vision of hell?

How to explain that his religious views are wrong and that Earth is not the center of the universe or that the Pope is not infallible and people seriously believe that all in the Bible is fake?

We are living in one much better world than people of the middle ages. Much better. But we are far from a paradise. We have exchanged some evils for others.

It is amazing some answers placed a real time period that at - the end - a past traveler could be adjusted to our time.

Of course I forgot to mention he/she could drop dead on the spot of our "brave new world".

Also forgot to mention he/she was not vaccinated for any kind of virus disease. A simple case of flu will kill he/she before you could take any action.

This guy could have to take antidepressant medicine for the rest of his/her life.

Or is it even possible for him to fully adapt and blend in as a modern human like us?

Of course, the possibility do exist. In 2007 giant pandas do produced offspring.


May be your time traveler does not kill him/her self.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Medieval Europe had St. John's Wort, used today as an herbal antidepressant. There are likewise people, e.g. those raised by religious parents, who manage to cope quite well with learning that most of the religion is fake. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ St. John's Wort is a so weak antidepressant that you could need drink four liters of St. John's Wort tea all day for two years before you get some result. Wine was the "antidepressant" of choice in the Midle Ages.Of course nowadays people could manage to cope quite well with learning that most of the religion is fake. But not in the Middle Ages. Suicide was a so great problem in the MIddle Ages (because the lost of labor hand) that Catholic Church made a very special sin of it. M. Luther had special disgust by the way Catholic Fathers toke care of it. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ Oh my! three down votes. Do you know that this was the only thing necessary to send me to be burned alive in the stake? Three inquisitors voting against me. Hey, middle Ages lovers, do you know that "Middle-earth", "Narnia" and Middle Ages are not the same thing? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know how adaptable humans are? (I recall a college classmate who was studying mining engineering. Grew up in a tribe in the New Guinea highlands.) Re the efficacy of St. John's Wort, studies say otherwise, e.g. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4946846 and pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15499702 showing that it's effective for treatment of mild to moderate depression. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ "Grew up in a tribe in the New Guinea" is not the same as be born in the middle ages. Even in the New Guinea some day he/she watch the sky and saw a airplane. " St. John's Wort, studies say otherwise," A guy who come from past to our time probably will get a severe case of depression. St. John's Wort, can not deal with it, and "mild to moderate" depression is far from a severe case. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 3:50

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