A lot of people talk about the culture shock they experience when they leave their home country. It can be depressing, confusing and frustrating to integrate into another culture. The food is different, the people may look different, you aren’t familiar with the language, and even small things will just not be the same. Suddenly, things that you thought you knew how to do would become a challenge, like riding a bus or buying food. This can be exciting and scary. You’ll learn new things but you may also miss that sense of familiarity.
However, when I arrived in Korea, I was shocked by the lack of shock. Everything was cool and new sure, but not as different as I thought. I remember thinking that when I landed. It’s just a big city, like every other big city, and I am comfortable in that setting. Then I thought back two years earlier when I moved from California to Oklahoma. I experienced more culture shock moving to a different state than I did flying halfway across the world. Perhaps it’s because everything was just off enough to create a sense that I just barely didn’t belong. In Korea, it was clear and expected that I would be the foreigner standing out. But I never expected to feel like a stranger in my own country.
When I arrived, I felt a disconnect with the students I met. They were nice and lovely, but our experiences were so vastly different from each other. I found the food to be disappointing, the weather was dreary, and I just felt out of place for quite some time. I made friends with international students because I felt like I had more in common with them. We liked the same foods, had similar outlooks on life, and enjoyed traveling. I found it difficult to see the perspectives of other American students. Thankfully my roommate was from California as well and we would often talk about how different life was here and how we felt like we weren’t even in the same country. For example, around the same time, Trump was elected President and I had no clue people actually supported him. Everyone in California thought his campaign was a joke to get publicity. I’d also never seen so many churches in my life or been asked so many personal questions about my beliefs. Everything made more sense and became more confusing at the same time.
I still feel gloomy when it gets cold and wet, I really think the food is a disappointment, and I think people’s accents are kind of funny. I still don’t understand people’s outlooks on life and how they seem to still know the same people since elementary school. I will probably never stop complaining about how people drive. But eventually I adjusted and I wouldn’t have chosen to go anywhere else. I’ve made some very good friends, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll always be a weird California person at heart but that doesn’t mean I can’t peacefully live elsewhere. Sometimes it’s good to leave your home and learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable because that is when you’ll grow the most and develop a strong sense of who you are and who you want to be.