Culture Shock in All Its Glory

Many people I meet have never learned about the 4 generally accepted phases of culture shock (even current expats).  I think it is important to know about them for those who are expats and those who wish to be someday.  Wikipedia gives you a decent description here, although they use wayyyyy too much of the word ‘one.’  There are also a number of books on the subject and I am a fan of the Culture Shock series for various countries to help you know before you go.

Click to see on Amazon

Here is my very own version of what it feels like (I wish I could draw, I’d totally make a comic strip out of this):

Phase #1:  Yay!!  I can’t believe I’m living in another country!  My friends and family will be so jealous!  Everything is so new and exciting!  I lost my luggage, I live in a hovel* and I don’t get paid for 6 weeks, but I don’t care because this is soooo GREAT!  I can’t wait to try all the new and wondrous food!  Did I mention this is sooo great?

Phase #2:  This place f*ing sucks.  I miss…I dunno…lots of stuff, like Kraft Mac-n-Cheese and real Mexican food and having a clothes dryer.  I can’t stand how they (fill in the blank) and every little thing is so irritating I just want to scream.  I can’t believe this is only the 4th month.  How am I going to manage this for another 8?  I should just leave.

Phase #3:  I’m so glad I didn’t leave!  Life is good here now.  I have a good circle of friends.  I can get on a bus without being afraid of leaving my comfort zone or having people speak to me.  I may not know the language fully, but I’ve certainly picked up on some fun expressions like ‘jinja’ (진짜) and ‘ayyssshhhh’ and love them.  I know who 2NE1 and Big Bang are and eat more Korean food than Western food when I go out.   I prefer chopsticks over forks and knives and have been complimented on how well I use them.  I am starting to forget what is ‘normal’ in my own culture and what is not.

I have yet to experience Phase #4 in any country, but here’s what I think it’d be like

Phase #4:  I am the master of the expats.  Ask me anything about this place, I dare you.  I’m comfortable with the language and could be your tour guide if you needed one.  I may integrate some cultures from the old country, but in many aspects I am Korean-ized.  I prefer Beast over Bieber and I stare at newbies on the subway because I think they look funny.  I don’t use any of my old clothes or products from home.  In fact, my entire outfit came from Dongdaemun (동대문).

*thankfully the luggage and hovel part didn’t happen to me, but I’ve heard horror stories*

I added this comic below as a scene changer and because I’m a big fan.  If you live in Korea you will get a kick out of his work, I’ve seen them a dozen times and I still crack up!  If you click the pic it will bring you to his website where you can the rest and buy the book.  Good times.

Courtesy of ROKetship Comic by Luke Martin (click on the pic for more comics and to buy the book version!

I currently am in Phase 3 I believe.  Phase 2 was horrendous, even though I was fully aware it was happening, I couldn’t prevent it from affecting my moods.  I bow down to the friends who went through that phase with me and still stuck around.  You know who you are.  😉  But that is the beauty of expat friends – we stick together because we are all going through the same phases, although sometimes at different speeds.

Here is a good depiction of the process of culture shock.  I like the part about CHOICE because there are many foreigners in Korea that aren’t happy and those who are happy, like me, always say Korea is what you make of it and I think this chart shows that:

Culture Shock choice

I truly believe that knowing about these phases will get you through them faster and smoother.  Being self-aware goes a long way.  Happy travels!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Big Meal For ONE Please « FickleFolly
  2. Trackback: The Road to Femininity #3 « FickleFolly

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