Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Got to Get You into My Life

I am struggling right now.  I know this is to be expected.  I have read and understand about all the stages of relocating to a different country.  Unfortunately, the excitement has waned and I didn't prepare myself for the harsh reality of ‘culture shock’ and anxiety I have felt over the past several days.

So, I've done more research and I've confirmed what many of my friends who've done this before said to me before I left.  I trusted ole Google, which led me to which led me to a very revealing article.  Very scientific methodology, right?

Symptoms of Culture Shock
  •     a feeling of sadness and loneliness,
  •     an over-concern about your health,
  •     headaches, pains, and allergies
  •     insomnia or sleeping too much (both, actually)
  •     feelings of anger, depression, vulnerability
  •     idealizing your own culture
  •     trying too hard to adapt by becoming obsessed with the new culture
  •     the smallest problems seem overwhelming
  •     feeling shy or insecure
  •     become obsessed with cleanliness
  •     overwhelming sense of homesickness
  •     feeling lost or confused
  •     questioning your decision to move to this place

The Culture Shock Model

Step 1: The Honeymoon Stage
Like any new experience, there's a feeling of euphoria when you first arrive to a new country and you're in awe of the differences you see and experience. You feel excited, stimulated, enriched. During this stage, you still feel close to everything familiar back home.

Step 2: The Distress Stage
Everything you're experiencing no longer feels new; in fact, it's starting to feel like a thick wall that's preventing you from experiencing things. You feel confused, alone and realize that the familiar support systems are not easily accessible.

Step 3: Re-integration Stage
During this stage, you start refusing to accept the differences you encounter. You're angry, frustrated and even feel hostile to those around you. You start to idealize life "back home" and compare your current culture to what is familiar. You dislike the culture, the language, the food. You reject it as inferior. You may even develop some prejudices towards the new culture. Don't worry. This is absolutely normal. You're adjusting. This is actually a pretty common reaction to anything new. Any adjustment can cause you to look back in awe and wonder why you made the decision to change.

Step 4: Autonomy Stage
This is the first stage in acceptance. I like to think of it as the emergence stage when you start to rise above the clouds and finally begin to feel like yourself again. You start to accept the differences and feel like you can begin to live with them. You feel more confident and better able to cope with any problems that may arise. You no longer feel isolated and instead you're able to look at the world around you and appreciate where you are.

Step 5: Independence Stage
You are yourself again! You embrace the new culture and see everything in a new, yet realistic light. You feel comfortable, confident, able to make decisions based on your own preferences. You no longer feel alone and isolated. You appreciate both the differences and similarities of your new culture. You start to feel at home.

Let's just say I'm kinda – nope, solidly - in Stage 3.

More from the article...

"Sounds like fun, huh? Now you may have one of the above symptoms or a combination of a few; it's very individual and unpredictable. I know I tend to be much more emotional than I usually am, crying over simple things that normally I wouldn't even look at twice. Seeing people hugging or someone being kind to me would make me burst into tears. I didn't feel sad. Just sentimental. I suppose that should be added to my list. I also found that I clung to the familiar. E-mail and being in touch with people back home gave me a great source of comfort until I realized that I needed to remove myself from the old and embrace the new..."
Bottom line:  If I don't embrace this place, then this won't work and I will look back on this opportunity with regret because I couldn't let go of my comfort zone.   If I want to make this year work, I have to embrace the differences in culture, language, attitudes and cherish the gift I’ve been given.  That's why I'm here.   While I’ll always be "an American in Peru", I will accept the blessing of being a Peruvian while I can.


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  2. Hang in there. It will be worth it.