As we draw near to the end of this series, it’s clear to see that lots of learning takes place once you move overseas. Around every turn there’s a learning opportunity to be had. Whether we’re learning language, manners, how to get around the city, the proper way to host a guest, or how to get rid of pesky farm animals from the yard, the river of cultural learning never seems to run dry.
With that being said, let’s take a moment to talk about the times when all of that learning takes its toll on us. Maybe you’ve had one too many language mistakes and you’re tired of sounding like a 5-year old. Maybe you’re tired of trying to find places on unmarked streets and the vague, “it’s that way” directions are making your patience wear thin. Maybe you have reached your limit of ambushes by ants in the kitchen. And so help you, if one more power outage happens, you might go burn tires in the streets with all the other unhappy citizens.
I may have touched on something that causes you stress where you live. I may not have. We all have different cultural stressors and sometimes we find ourselves with a short fuse, very little patience, and a great deal of dislike towards the anybody and everybody that comes in your path. Culture shock isn’t just for the newbies. It comes back rearing its ugly head when we least expect it.
The first important step is realizing you might be experiencing some symptoms of culture shock and then moving on from there.
Personally, I like to have a “stay-cation”. Unlike a vacation, you do something relaxing without having to go very from from where you live. It might look different each time but it always involves me stepping away from the culture for a bit and doing something that’s more familiar to me.
It might start with me going to the grocery store and splurging a little bit on the imported treats that remind me of home. Oreos, Dr. Pepper, an $8 box of Lucky Charms (yeah, you heard me). Then, I might stay at the house for the weekend start a new TV series on Netflix, or maybe re-watch some of my old favorites (Friends, I Love Lucy…).
Another stay-cation we like to have as a family is spending the weekend at a JW Marriott in our city. This hotel greatly contrasts the city we live in. Great infrastructure. Pleasant fragrances throughout the whole building. Incredibly comfortable mattresses. Air conditioning that actually makes me feel cold. Fully functioning bathroom complete with a BATHTUB. A clean pool with comfy lounge chairs. And my favorite part…the complimentary breakfast buffet (helllooo waffles)! An additional perk is that we have points to stay at Marriott hotels so we’re able to enjoy this getaway within our city for free. I like that price. It’s nice to be able to enjoy some niceties everyone once in awhile and get to speak a language in which you’re absolutely fluent.
Some other ideas for battling the “culture shock blues” might include asking for a care package to be sent your way (or following up with someone who has already offered to send you some goodies) and journaling so that you can vent your frustrations without offending someone. Plus, as you look back on past journal entries, you might find yourself laughing at the same situations that nearly brought you to tears (much like this current series of “tips” we’re doing).
In summary, don’t be afraid to take a break. Don’t feel bad when you feel frustrated. Whatever you do, don’t bury those feelings deep, deep down and lock them in a dungeon of unresolved issues. Make a game plan for the times when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed and treat it like the first-aid kit of culture shock. It could very well save you from missing out on moments that you’ll end up treasuring for the rest of your life.
What are some of the ways you relieve stress brought on by the culture? How to you bounce back to feeling like yourself again? Please share and help out your fellow expats!