Cross-cultural research has traditionally emphasized predicting adjustment, treating it as a level to be achieved more than a change process to be understood and controlled. The lack of focus on process integration has inhibited our understanding of precisely why and how adjustment processes unfold and ultimately cause (dys)functional change in criteria. In response, we review the motives and processes of cross-cultural adjustment and integrate these into a theoretical framework, examining the discrete episode of expatriate-host national interaction as the focal vehicle for change. First, we synthesize the general causal sequence within an interaction episode. We then summarize state inputs that condition processing. Next, we describe identity management and learning processing in depth. Then, we discuss key interactions among the motive and processing categories. Finally, we orient the cross-cultural interaction episode within the nomological network of cross-cultural adjustment predictors and criteria. This framework prescribes that an expatriate should initially reduce acculturative stress through repeated, functional identity management and learning processing of novelty encountered in cross-cultural interaction episodes. To do so, one must avoid inhibitory input states and the many potential processing failures identified here. If the expatriate experiences enough such functional interaction episodes, a “Stage 2” is reached where the motive to reduce stress has been largely overcome, and thereafter, interaction episode processing proceeds more functionally in general.