Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Homesickness and culture shock

Today I want to do a post on homesickness and culture shock. Sometimes you will have a bad day when these things come into play. In your own country you have bad days and they will happen here too.

It doesn't matter how much you like where you are or how well adjusted you think you are. These times can come randomly and hit hard for reasons you're not sure of.

Sometimes being around a language you can't understand 24 hours a day, everyday, takes its toll on you. That combined with missing your countries food and missing other random things can really put you down. Even if you're happy with a lot of things and you like the language and you like most of the culture. Some days, the small things will seem unbearable and you wont be able to think past how easy and comfortable your life was back home. In our home countries we have people who love us and have known us for years, but here although we may like the people we're around, the connections aren't quite as strong. That also takes its toll. Who doesn't want to be with the people they love?

These feelings happen at different times and frequencies for different people. For me, it's about once a month that I'll have a day were I just can't bare to speak Chinese, eat Taiwanese food, and want nothing more than to talk to people back home.

What I usually do is indulge in these moments. I have tried ignoring them and trying to move past them, but that usually leads to trying to do more than what you can emotionally handle and having a break down of some sort. I suppose you could cry to your host parents if you wanted, and I know some kids who do, but that's not my style. So I just stop doing Taiwanese things, I go to my room, I relax, I buy some McDonald's, and I skype with my mother or boyfriend. Some people will see that as rejecting the culture. But when you start to feel drowned by this new culture, I think it's great to balance yourself a little by doing these things. If you feel overwhelmed by being in a new country, I think it's good to help yourself out a little. Do something comforting and then come back to the new culture later when you have the power to really accept it and celebrate it.

Yesterday I had one of these such days. I had planned to go out with two Taiwanese girls, my host family introduced me to, and spend the day sight seeing with them, because they were from a different part of Taiwan and wanted to tour Taipei. They both spoke english. One had even spent 8 years in America. Now, I'm on winter vacation from school right now. So my host parents and me have been staying up really late. And getting up late. Which would be no problem since the girls were arriving at 5 pm.

Back story: My teacher had emailed me two days before telling me I had to go to school that day for a meeting. I had emailed her back saying I already had plans with my host family. She didn't answer my email.

So on this morning, my teacher calls my host mother and tells her it's an "emergency" and she wants me to come right there and then. So my host mother wakes me up. And tells me about the phone call. I get up, without changing my clothing, showering, with less than 5 hours of sleep, and go to the meeting. Only to sit there doing nothing and have everything speaking Chinese for the first two hours. I inform them that they need to tell me what they want or I'm going to leave and finally they tell me I must write a speech. I don't really want to write a speech, but I do it.

Anyway, after that kind of morning, I tried to put it past me. It doesn't matter. I went home. Went to sleep for another hour. Took a shower. Changed my clothing. And was looking forward to the rest of the day.

However, I found the whole night I felt very left out. Everyone spoke only in Chinese and any attempt I made to join the conversation just didn't get me more than a one word answer, sometimes less. I think my feelings of being left out were somewhat real, and somewhat because I was really lacking sleep. Anyway, the night went on and I just closed off more and more. When we got home, I was really frustrated. It's annoying when you can't understand why people are laughing nonstop when you feel like not your best.

It happens. So I closed myself off in my room. Anyone will tell you that this is a wrong move. But really, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. It was 11:30 pm anyway.

The day wasn't even that bad, but at the time, it felt horrible. So I just called my mother and talked to her for a few hours. It really helped.

Sometimes you're just going to be an angst filled exchange student. Laugh about it later. I talked to my best friend Zack about it and we laughed about how much of an ass I was.

Anyway, just don't be rude or ruin any relationships, if you can help it.

I just here to tell you, that feeling this way is real, and it will happen. 


  1. Michelle, aww I had no idea how hard your
    day was for you. I felt the talk was needed though and if really made me feel better too. I enjoyed catching up with you. :-)

    I love you.

  2. @mom
    Yeah, thank you for talking to me.