Let's face it. Travel sounds glamorous and exciting, but there will be days when it feels like everything BUT awesome. Suddenly, the country you were once so enthralled with makes no sense at all, and it seems like every day there is something that drives you bonkers enough to consider hopping on the next plane home. The honeymoon is over, folks.
See that handy chart? Stage 1 is where everything your new country does is genius and endearing. This is a good time to write about the things you love, since there will be PLENTY of new, exciting things to see. It's like when you first get a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and they are perfect in every way. Stage 2 is what sucks. Suddenly, the honeymoon is over, and there will be things daily that will leave you pulling your hair out, fighting sudden bits of rage, and perhaps shedding a few tears (guilty as charged). Stage 3 is where things start evening out, and you aren't as tempted to live a hermit life. There will be good days and bad days, as opposed to mostly bad days like there were in Stage 2. Stage 4 is where it's at, when you finally adjust to the culture and (mostly) understand how to navigate it.
This process takes different lengths of time for different people. For me, I hit stage 2 after just a month of living here, and stayed there at the bottom for a solid 3 months. I feel like now I'm still in between 2 and 3, but climbing closer to 3 every day. Some people take months to hit Stage 2, and it can last anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months. I found that my culture shock here in Korea was WAY more extreme than my culture shock in the Dominican or in Italy. Depending on your personality, you will react to each new culture in a different way.
Culture shock is a guaranteed thing, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Culture shock is a normal part of adjusting to a new culture and country. While it is not fun, it's an unavoidable fact of living overseas. So, how do you deal with it (besides spending an entire Saturday in your pajamas looking up flights outta there)?
1. Take a trip
This is by far my biggest advice when struggling to adjust. The catch is that when you feel down and homesick, the last thing you want to do it get out there and explore. However, taking a trip to see the beautiful things in your new country will help reignite the excitement and appreciation for it. The trip can be as big or as small as you like, whether it's traveling across the country, visiting something in your city, or taking a walk in the park by your apartment. One of the things that helped me snap out of my culture shock pity-party was climbing the mountain in our city with my husband. The views, fresh air, and new experience did wonders for me! So, force yourself to get out there and explore! You'll be glad you did it.
2. Find a hobby.
Not only does it take your mind off things, a hobby can also help you feel productive and successful. I love to bake, so on my worst days my husband often came downstairs to find me listening to Christmas music and baking something new. It was like balm for my soul! Whether you enjoy baking, painting, running, crafting, writing music, or jewelry making, find something that gives you an outlet. It helps on the days where you have many "fails" in your new home.
3. Find comfort in the little things.
Wherever I go, I bring the "I Love Lucy" mug my family got me for my birthday years ago. It's my favorite mug, and even though it sounds silly, it brings me a lot of comfort. It's something small and useful that didn't take up too much space in our luggage. On rough mornings, I fill my mug with coffee, sit on my couch for a bit, and either go on Pinterest or watch a episode of "I Love Lucy" , "Jimmy Fallon" or "Modern Family". Sometimes that 30 minutes is all you need to push the reset button and gather the courage to go out there and navigate a confusing culture.
4. Stay OFF of Facebook (when you need to).
While Facebook is so wonderful for communicating and keeping in touch with people, it's not a good idea to spend a ton of time scrolling through your news feed when you feel incredibly homesick and at one of your lowest points (ask me how I know this). The last thing you need is to be comparing your currently frustrating situation with everyone's lives back home. Not that I'm saying it's bad to see what people are up to, but be discerning on when you do this. It is SO tempting to do when you are down and missing home, but it's better to find something else to distract yourself with. Watch a TV show, clean your apartment, or go for a walk instead.
5. Think big picture.
When you in the midst of Stage 2, it's difficult to see beyond your own frustrating circumstances (Really though, can't this be said for any obstacle in life?). However, realizing that this is just for a time will help you see your trip in the grand scheme of things. We're not really sure how long we'll be in Korea, but we know it won't be forever. When I have a frustrating day, I try to think of how I'll feel a few years down the road. The truth is, there will be things I'll miss from our lives here! A year or two are incredibly long when your in the midst of it, but when looking at life as a whole, it is just a page of your story. Now, if you try to tell me that when I'm getting yelled at in Korean by a fierce ajumma or ajushi (elderly woman or man), or shoved in line, I might not want to hear it. However, take a moment and realize that this isn't forever. Even if you are settling long-term in a country, Stage 2 is just for a time, and then you can look forward to being a happy, adjusted foreigner!
These 5 things helped keep me (mostly) sane the past few months and deal with culture shock, and I hope the work for you as well! What do you do when facing culture shock or adjusting to a new situation?