Living as an expat, you get to realizing culture shock comes in daily life-sized capsules called Language Barriers.; but unlike vitamins, these will eventually wear on you. They mimic your inability to sometimes do the simplest things. Do you feel stupid despite your MFA degree? Yes. Can you erase this feeling? Not easily. To an expat living in a new country, it’s the everyday, mundane things which quickly become your greatest enemies.
So I finally did it. I got that shot in the butt thing that other EPiKers and newbie expats have experienced when they went to tthe hospital for their ailments. Yes, I got my pat on the butt and a butt shot.
So last week, I did something very un-Korean…I told my co-teacher, in a very truthful and direct manner about my reasons for resenting her. It was inevitable. I was pointed at the tip and I knew I had nothing to lose. Nothing at all- Money, love, friendship, job, a city, a country..? When you have nothing to lose, you have nothing to fear. Nada. Nietz. Zip. A perfect time to gamble for “change” with the odds in your favor.
So I’ve decided to start a short series, conveniently titled “Just Show Me Pictures!” about battling language barriers and culture shock in Korea. It’s suspect that generally 90% of expats suffer culture shock and depression because the familiar is replaced by the foreign and you must live and endure, compromised lifestyle for a lengthy duration. Language barriers are the beast which only adds to this frustration.
So you live in a new country, you’ve got a new job, you’re working out the variables of navigating new food, new work relationships, cultural and communication barriers… so why are you depressed? Welcome to culture shock. Nothing you do can prepare you for what you think you will or won’t experience when you move abroad.
Seeing face masks on my students in class or on passing pedestrians on the subway and Daegu streets have become a norm for me here. They are so common and readily available, that most of them even come with a cute or colorful design to make them more appealing, stylish and friendly to fun. Before Korea, Asians wearing face masks was something I just didn’t understand. On my JAL flight over here, seeing people donning face masks ellicited personal notions that mainland/F.O.B Asians (depends what side of the line you’re standing) must be hypochondriac freaks for styling sick masks Post SARS. Now, the potential culprit is revealed…
When you’re new to a country, the last thing you want to deal with is extraneous stress and confusion with important things… like cellphones and phone plans. Still, when that one person whom you were told would help you set up the necessities of your brand new life, can’t lend simple advice or is reluctant to take any responsibility outside of work hours, what do you do? Whatever it takes.
Been having some difficulty with this post’s visibility so hopefully this has been corrected. .. Before I came to Korea, I scoured various online expat and info sources for advice as to “What to Bring if You’re Moving to Korea”. Frankly, these lists only helped mildly- when I arrived I was both, OVER & UNDER-prepared. In fact, the things you think Korea wouldn’t have, they do and if they do have it, it either takes a bit of a search to find or you pay a tad more for it than you normally would in the U.S. As a vegetarian undergoing culture shock, discovering CostCo was my personal god-send. Costco was a neutral nose zone for me with enough “American Costco” products and familiarity to make me feel a little “Home-Safe-Home”.
What does a vegetarian do when they find a vegan restaurant in Korea? (gasp!)
They fall to their knees and thank the Korean Christian god above- I have never been so grateful for a restaurant in my life! A block and a half away from Kyodae subway stop & the Daegu National Education University, there it stood- was my first vegan restaurant in Korea.