Friday, July 6, 2012

Culture Shock!

I have refrained from starting this post, because I am right in the middle of the various stages of culture shock.  I have been through it before in Argentina, and I am sure that my experience in Asia will be exponentially different, as it already has been.  I plan on revisiting this post at the end of the year to compare and contrast my culture shock in South America, with how I felt in East Asia. 

According to multiple sources and my experiences: there are 5 main stages in culture shock.  I have written them here in my own words.

#1 - The Honeymoon stage
This is the stage that is with you at the beginning of any journey, short or long.  For short trips, usually the honeymoon stage is all you experience.  Usually, you are just simply so excited for a change.  You are in a new place away from the stresses of work or life in your native country.  You have successfully escaped to a land with new and interesting food, people and culture.  You are learning a whole new language, your senses peaking as you simply walk through the streets or order something that smells like nothing you have ever imagined.

In Argentina, I loved they way the Spanish language was spoken with the beautiful castillano accent.  It all sounded very Italian and romantic.  The wine and meat were incredible.

# 2 - The Adjustment Stage
After you have fallen in love with your new home over and over again, the snags start to add up, and it hits you: you are very far away from home.  Far away from your amazing friends and your loving family.  The language is so different, and the more you learn, like anything, the more you realize you don’t know.  It becomes daunting.  Depression sets in.  You become tired, disconnected, and the people start to annoy you.  

*Actually, this usually happens to me for the first few weeks, then honeymoon, then this again for a bit.  My friend Jade pointed that out to me.  It  happens to her as well. 

This stage hit me the first few weeks in and again a few months later.  The reason it is so soon was because I had been living in sunny Arizona for four years, and arrived to Buenos Aires in the middle of winter.  The weather, along with my difficulty to understand the accent took their toll on me later on.

#3 - Acclimation
WAKE UP.  Get up and know that you are here for a reason.  Where you are is a gift and is something to live fully.  This is the stage where you start becoming familiar with your surroundings.  It begins to feel a bit like home.  You are a part of this new world now.  Ordering food is easier, and you can get around the city pretty well. 

At this stage, I had begun to establish a great group of girl friends.  We took a lot of trips.  I began to learn more and more about the city and the Argentine culture.  At this stage, I was a pro at ordering chori pan (sausage sandwich), lomito (steak sandwich), and vino tino (red wine). 

#4 - Acceptance
This is the stage where you sit back and accept that this is where you will be for a while.  You have already put in a lot of time and effort to this place and begin to remember how and why you felt the way you did during the honeymoon stage. 

This is when I started to walk the city streets like I was a part of them.  I was living and breathing amongst the people, I recognized my neighbors and they recognized me.   I could do almost anything on my own.

#5 - Domination Stage
At this stage your command of the language is key, and the part that I think really pulls you up to dominating your new home.  You can speak enough to communicate and carry small conversations.  Not fluent by any means, because that takes much more time, but you can easily get around.  At this stage you can communicate with the people and really begin to absorb and learn everything that you started out in pursuit of. 

I was often mistaken for being Argentine after about six months.  I could get around easily and had my favorite places to eat and shop.  My life in Argentina had become a reality and I loved it.  Pretty doubtful I will be mistaken for a local here in Asia though…

* Tips on how to deal
Accept what is happening and know that it is normal.  These feelings of self-doubt and defeat happen to the best of us.  Stick it out, and you will eventually dominate.  Obviously.

Work out!  Find something that you like to do as far as exercise that you can do anywhere that you move, for me that is running.  This will help keep your energy level up, keep you healthy, help you to see the city, and make friends.

Try and brush up on the language before moving over.  Any little bit will help, and it shows the people that you are trying and you care.  Earning respect from the people you are living with is important. 

Read up on your history.  This will help you to understand the culture and where the people of the country are coming from and what they have endured in the past.  This can really help you during the adjustment stage. 

…. And that’s all I have to say about that.


  1. I'm always stuck in the adjustment phase for a while. hahahah. And it always starts first, then the honeymoon period. haha. then the adjustment phase again. arfffff. Hope you feel better!!!! Being sick in another country sucks! (As I'm having flashbacks of dancing the samba at Carnaval in Brazil in Rio and all of a sudden the face pain started out of nowhere hahah)

    1. OMG Jade that totally happens to me too!! I should mention that! Love you and miss you!!