Welcome to your new country. You’ve come here for fun, excitement, change, challenge, and perhaps money. Will the locals speak your language? I’m not trying to scare you, but perhaps they won’t. Will some people there speak your language, oh most definitely. This is only one of the things that you may have to think about when you plan on going to a new country.
Culture shock is an interesting phenomenon that doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Some just can’t understand it when the locals don’t speak English. Some can’t comprehend why there aren’t any English signs anywhere to be found. Why are things done this way, and not that way? Why am I even in this situation? It would never happen in my home country. Questions like these can cause people to get stressed out and want to go back to their own countries. People can get frustrated when faced with change. Many people deal with it their own way, head back home.
In 1998, I traveled to Taiwan. I never once felt that I suffered from culture shock, personally. I always felt it was more like culture fascination rather than culture shock. I was amazed with everything that I saw and encountered. But I still had many questions. For instance, why aren’t there English street signs on the corner of every intersection? I felt that they would be very helpful for me and also for other people from English speaking countries. What I didn’t think about was that the people that live there can read the signs just fine, and it certainly isn’t necessary for them to change them all just for me. A friend of mine had a girlfriend that hated everything about Taiwan and couldn’t understand why it was different from her home in San Francisco. She hated the people, hated the food, hated the smells, hated the transportation, all because it was different from San Francisco. I asked her if she hated everything so much, why doesn’t she just leave. I cared about Taiwan and its people and to be completely honest, I didn’t want to hear any more of her complaining. She ended up leaving eventually, but after many more complaints. This is what happens to some people, they can’t adjust to their new environment properly.
Others suffer from a much more realistic and understandable reason, homesickness. It’s easy to miss your family, your friends, and your familiar stomping grounds. For people that decide to go overseas, they have to stay focused, enjoy themselves, and be strong. Yes, this new place isn’t like home. Yes, this new place is strange and different. No, your friends and family aren’t here. This was one of the biggest challenges that I had ever faced and I thrived on it.
Another factor involved can be diet. The foods that you’re used to eating may not be available in this new location. You may have to actually try something different. Believe me, this is a good thing. Trying new things will also be a test for you. Try the food that the locals eat everyday. It’s obviously not bad for you, or these people wouldn’t be eating it themselves. I have to laugh to myself when I hear about people going to Taiwan and eating McDonald’s all the time.
The culture in your new destination will obviously be different when compared to where you’re from. Things they say and do will most likely also be different. When I was in Taiwan, it was generally accepted for people to ask others how much money they made. In Canada, this is just an awkward question that is rarely asked, even amongst close friends. Actually, now that I think back to that time, I felt uncomfortable every single time I was asked my rate of pay. I was asked quite frequently and I never actually gave up that information to my inquisitors.
As I mentioned previously, culture shock affects different people different ways. I knew a guy who went to Taiwan; he was originally planning on staying for a year. He lasted 5 days. In my opinion, this small amount of time is not enough to give a fair evaluation of the country. But that’s me, and that was his decision, not mine. I just goes to show you that people are different. Don’t be worried about how culture shock is going to affect you, just buy a book and read a bit about your destination. Nothing will totally prepare you for what you’re about to discover. Enjoy yourself and make the absolute most of your experience. Don’t fear culture shock, embrace it.
More than just ESL jobs...