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Alyssa’s Expat Life—Preparing for Reverse Culture Shock

May 13, 2014   //   by astahr   //   Alyssa Stahr, Blog  //  Comments Off on Alyssa’s Expat Life—Preparing for Reverse Culture Shock

I have started and stopped the blog about my trip to Beijing/Xian about five times, and just last night I realized why I couldn’t write it—because the day one fiasco was so wild that it’s just impossible to describe. It overshadows the rest of the trip, and I don’t want that.

Life in China is a crazy ride. And, now I’m used to it. It took almost four months, but I’m used to having every single thing, down to ordering food, or getting to my final destination, be a painstaking process. While I saw some amazing things on my trip and feel extremely fortunate to have seen them, I worked for that experience. I worked damn hard for it. And the day-to-day anxiety of the way things are done here made the trip almost not worth it. And, that’s all I’m going to write about it as to not fill my head with the anxiety the travel company put me through down to puking in my hotel bushes. If you’d like to hear the whole story, that’ll be another time in another day once I can laugh about it down the road. I stood on the Great Wall of China. That is what I want the memory to be, and I’m not there yet.

I recently read an outstanding blog from another expat living in South Korea. It centered on our five senses and how they change when living in a foreign country. And, it’s very true. I particularly liked the hearing and seeing explanations. Since you can’t understand anything anyone is saying, every conversation in the background becomes white noise. I’m now used to drowning out everything going on around me, with minimal phrases sounding familiar. The same goes for sight. I’m now used to not being able to read anything or having to rely on charades or photos to get by. Even then, you never know what you’re going to get or where you’re going to end up either via taxi or restaurant menu.

Finally, after all this time, I understand why people return to live the expat life time and time again. Everything I felt previously to coming here is bubbling to the surface now that my return to the States is imminent. It’s going to be sensory overload. In the course of a day, I will be able to read everything and understand everything everyone is saying around me. Everything will come so easily and be at the tip of my fingers—perhaps too easy? It sounds overwhelming at first, but I’m sure I’ll get back into it within a matter of days.

What is going to be the hardest to get used to is how I’ve changed. If this experience doesn’t change a person, I don’t know what will. I’m now part of a rare group of people who have chosen this life, albeit for a short period of time, over “normalcy” in the United States. How can I ever go back to “normal” life after this and be satisfied? I know with God’s help and the help of my friends, I can. But there’s something from within I have to find to be OK with heading back to the States in just two short months. And, even though I don’t agree with China’s cultural ways, I’m used to expecting the extreme unexpected. I’m comfortable in the confines, the isolation, of expat life. While I love traveling independently, there are moments I stop the tears from coming because I’m so lost without someone to share it all with. I’m worried that I’ll never be able to explain what it’s like, or that I’ll harbor my needs and wants in my own crazy mind and have no one to relate to on that level.

I look at the amazing experiences I’ve had and the places around the world that I’ve been. No one else on earth has shared these things with me. It’s an empowering, yet lonely, terrifying thought.

 

 

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