Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Culture Shock Experience in Japan.

I wanted to share some info we discussed in my Teaching English Internationally class. The other day, we had a lecture on culture shock which reminded me of my experience in Japan.

I feel that many people think culture shock is a specific event that shocks/surprises you about the country you are living at. Like japanese toilets, packed trains, weird food, etc. These do play a part in the culture shock but it isn't culture shock.

Culture shock is a psychological process of adjustment to a new environment. I'm not going to get into all the details but I'll give a clip-notes version of the stages/process:
Fascination / Honeymoon Stage. everything is dandy, wonderful, awesome, and you're having the time of your life 
Discomfort and Withdrawal from New Culture / Seeking Familiar Ties. things that were easy feel complicated and challenging, things are not familiar so you're looking for the familiar 
Frustration. You feel like an angsty teen; people don't understand you, you're complaining, you don't want to be here and this is usually the stage when people leave.
Adjustment / Adaption. Healthy reality, everything isn't perfect but that's okay, you're happy.
In all the culture shock discussions/orientations I've ever attended this was the best one, and I've been to four; before I went abroad, when I got to Japan, when I got to the host university and this one.

With that being said, everyone gets culture shock. Everyone. It may not be exactly like this, I know mine wasn't but it is still something everyone goes through when they are in a new environment. There are several variations of culture shock and everyone is different.

Although people tend to view culture shock as a bad thing it's actually a good thing because it shows you are learning about the culture you are living in and actually experiencing it. Progression, my friends.

Though it does have it's benefits, it can still feel like shit. So here are some stuff to help you overcome the hard times:
Find local people to interact with. This seriously helped me when I was feeling like crap. Interacting with my Japanese friends made me feel less like an outsider, for obvious reasons. 
Surround yourself with familiar things. This also helped me, and probably helped me the most. Whenever I was feeling pretty down I'd watch an episode of Game of Thrones, TVD, The Originals or listen to some Blink-182, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday because it was something I would do if I was in California. I had polaroids of me and Lyy on my wall, and band posters as well haha. 
Writing in a journal. I have this blog and a private blog for myself and I felt writing in both was helpful. Especially the private one, where I can totally spill my feelings out just for myself to have something to look back on like a good old fashion journal. 
Chill with close friends. Hanging out with my friends Lyy, Hopy, Jenn, etc. made me feel a lot better because I could relate to them so well. Most of my happy times in Japan were with these girls and when I felt alone, they reminded me I wasn't. Especially Lyy.

My Experience.
My experience of culture shock was not exactly like template above, oddly enough I skipped the honeymoon stage and went to the straight discomfort stage. I knew the language barrier is what made me feel like this, which was what I was most worried about beforehand. 

Also, the ILP program I took over the summer contributed to me feeling very much alone. Even though I was with fellow UC students for several reasons they made it worse. The ILP program was probably my lowest point. The fact of doing simple things was so much harder because I didn't know the language, really impacted me as well. 

I was in the frustration stage for a bit where I would complain here and there to family and friends, mostly due to the language barrier. But I actually blamed myself for not studying more tbh. Most of the time it was more of things feeling much more complicated and having trouble finding someone I can relate to and build a connection with. And in all honestly, these feelings would come and go for the first six to seven months.

It wasn't until after that, I started getting more comfortable with my surroundings and started meeting people I could relate to that I ended up in the adjustment / adaption stage. And luckily, that lasted until my departure.

I remember being so bummed that when I was comfortable with my life in Japan I already had to leave. Everything was falling into place, I was being comfortable with myself, and more than ever I knew what I wanted.

I honestly loved my experience in Japan, culture shock and all. It makes you stronger, and you learn more about yourself as a person.

I hope people can relate to this post and even help others dealing with culture shock or hopefully it was just a fun read. Thanks for reading!

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