the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
- Honeymoon stage: Where one feels elated about their new surroundings, foods, cultural norms and cannot contain their enthusiasm for their new home.
- Rejection stage: Where one feels frustrated and has a lack of understanding for their new home and meets it with criticism, resentment, and anger.
- Regression/Isolation stage: Where one feels frustrated with everything about their new home. Whether it is the food, the people or their new culture, the person going through this stage of culture shock will be quickly propelled into the Regression and Isolation stage. During this stage, the person affected puts their home country on a pedestal and views their experiences, friendships and relationships back home as superior to those of their current environment.
- Adjustment and Adaptation stage: During this stage, one must personally employ a few tactics to get through the Regression and Isolation stage, otherwise they may continue to feel isolated in their new environment. While it’s up to the individual’s unique coping mechanisms as to what will work for them, I always try to have a sense of humor, open mind and empathy when I find myself feeling isolated from Korean society.
While it’s natural to ride the culture shock rollercoaster for a few months, some people don’t realize that culture shock is not always over and forgotten about within a few months. It is a continuous cycle and tends to be a dark, ominous cloud that follows some around longer than they’d like, leaving the victim unsure as when it will strike again. However, what happens if the feelings of isolation don’t go away?
Depression abroad has been the most tormenting and confining experience of my life. Although living in a foreign country is an exhilarating and wonderful experience each day, negative emotions often tend to be magnified.
As an expat, life is akin to a continuous revolving door.
Friends you meet, connect with and share pieces of your life with move away. Working in a foreign environment can be frustrating and exhausting. Not speaking a language with fluency can bring confusion and annoyance to just about any situation. While all of this is going on, your family and friends are half a world away in a completely different time zone. It’s no longer easy to pick up the phone and call the people who know you best when you need your batteries recharged.
Though the majority of my time spent in Korea has not been the greatest, I do not regret moving here. I’ve met some amazing people and have learned so much about myself that I really don’t think I could have discovered otherwise. The famous phrase, “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” really resonates with me. To me, Korea is my tunnel.
I’m not sure why I feel so uninspired and uncomfortable in Korea, but I know for certain I am not alone with this sentiment. I know a great deal of people who have either gone through this period of darkness or are currently in a rut as well. However, everything is perspective and that’s what I must focus on during my next few final months here.
Tips for fighting through the culture shock blues:
- Focus on the good things
Not everything in Korea is bad. In fact, there are quite a few perks that come with living here. As a teacher, I’ve been able to live comfortably as my apartment is paid for, the cost of living is relatively low and I can walk to my job. In addition, the public transportation here is absolutely incredible as is the topography. It’s not always easy to focus on the good, but it’s completely and utterly necessary if one wants to remove themselves from a rut.
- Find people you connect with
Find a circle of people who you connect with. It doesn’t matter the size of your friendship group, it matters on the quality of trust you have with them. Being alone abroad doesn’t always have to feel so isolating if you have a loving group of humans to surround yourself with.
Meditation is something important to me and has helped me sort through my emotions over the years. With that said, it can take a lot of effort to take the time to sit each day to calm my mind. However, I’ve found this to be the most helpful thing I can do for myself.
- Revel in the fact that you’re here
Moving to Korea or abroad in general takes guts, man! Make a mental note that you’re a badass and will prevail through any hardships. As much as I cannot connect with the culture in Korea, it’s still been an amazing stage of my life thus far. I need to just accept the fact that it’s not for me and move forward. No matter what the experience, it will end up being a mind-opening, life changing one – so try to make the best of it!