Culture Shock – we have all heard of it, and we all think we know what it is, but do we really? Do a quick Google search and you will find a million different definitions and interpretations of it – you will also find about 1.4 million different graphs explaining the process of culture shock.
After talking to people I know who have lived abroad, and reading a lot of material on the internet, I have heard it all. “The first three months will be the hardest”. “The first three months will be the easiest”. “After three months, you will have a complete meltdown”. After over three months in Korea, I have come to the conclusion that culture shock is 100% an individual experience that will be entirely different from one person to the next – for me, that has meant random sneak attacks of culture shock that have bitch slapped me in the face unexpectedly.
What has culture shock looked like for me?
- Culture shock is sitting on a jam packed bus as the only Caucasian English speaker, while listening to some sappy as shit song by Bleachers, and feeling 100% invisible.
- Culture shock is playing a fucking BEER COMMERCIAL during a “Canadian Culture” lecture, and feeling like you’re about to choke up in front of a room of 24 high school students.
- Culture shock is staring at a menu in Korean for a solid 27 minutes trying to determine a suitable dish to order that doesn’t contain meat – only to order a meal that DEFINITELY contains meat.
- Culture shock is searching for those small home comforts; relating to fellow Canadians who resided in neighboring communities to yours, streaming NHL playoff games when you’re not even a major hockey fan, and listening to the Arkells on repeat because it reminds you of home.
Perhaps some of these things didn’t happen in my first three months in Korea, or perhaps I am more sensitive to them as I am inevitably exiting the honeymoon stage of my time here.
Overall, my time in Korea has been relatively seamless, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come without it’s downs. For some reason, those “downs” seem to appear at the most unexpected and inconvenient times. I’ve come to learn that this is something you simply cannot control – breathe, accept, and recognize that, like all things, this too shall pass.