How to handle culture shock

How to handle culture shock

What is it

Culture shock is one major aspect of moving abroad that not alot of people go too much in detail to. It is “the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different and unknown culture such as one may encounter in a foreign country.” ( as defined by Wikipedia) However I would say it is referring to really anything new that puts us outside of our bubble. Whether you take it as good or bad, it occurs and on occasion can be overwhelming. So here are my tips on how to remain content in your transitioning.

What it feels like

Culture shock can result in feelings similar to a mild depression. Many people experience this after the initial excitement of moving abroad has calmed down and the reality of their situation hits. You start off excited and giddy for all the new experiences and ways of life but then once you realize the work involved you begin to become rather pessimistic. I find this to be quite true for Americans moving to Germany. With such a stark contrast in cultural and social atmosphere, many people experience this aspect of culture shock.

It’s phases

Culture Shock is experienced in a series of four phases:

  1. Honeymoon: Hurray! youve done it! youve managed to move somewhere new and the novelty of it all has come and swept you away. Everything is darling and glorious in your new home!
  2. Frustration: oh hey, wait. What is this? why are people like this? how come things work this way? ohhhh what I would give to have things back like they were in my country…all of a sudden the novelty is gone and reality of change sets in.
  3. Adjustment: Alas, this is the way life is. You realize now your choices and begin to figure out how to settle and live life in a different way. Usually filled with a feeling of neutralism.
  4. Adaption: Youve figured out a routine. Set up shop now are confident in your abilities to navigate and manage your new life and home. Things are looking up and you are prepared for new challeneges.

How to manage Culture Shock

Going abroad is not at all easy. Moving out of your comfort zone, or bubble of security is always so uncomfortable. However, you’ve got two options now; run and hide or toughen up and put your best foot forward. If your interested in the latter then check out these following tips to help you succeed in your conquest.

  1. First off, boost up your self esteem. Look at you, you did it. You made a huge step forward in the world. Youve done something most people dream of but are never brave enough to attempt. You should be proud of your new accomplishment
  2. Remind yourself these feelings are only temporary. Everything new can be uncomfortable at first, but this duration of feeling is oh so short lived.
  3. Try and avoid excessive communication with aquaintences back home. As helpful as it can be, it prevents you from living in the present and being engaged in your new surroundings.
  4. Sit down and make  list of all the tasks you want to accomplish. Whether it is learning the local language or visiting that one super cool cafe. Find what interests you and make a plan on how to experience it.
  5. Get involved with the locals. The best way to adjust to your new surroundings is by socializing. Join a club, do some sports, connect! It helps you feel more in place and naturally learn about your new home easily and quickly.

How to help manage your friend’s culture shock

Culture shock isnt just a pain first hand, but can second hand put a damper on ones spirits. You may have found out how to adjust, but once a friend or expat newbie comes to you at the start of the phase, there are many ways you can help them reach your new found level of exceptional expat transition.

  1. Help them find a purpose. One aspect of culture shock is the lonelieness and feeling out of place. So if one feels as if they have a real role to embody, this is easily remedied.
  2. Get them out! the best way to do this is not by asking if they want to but give them choices that dont include the option of not coming along. AKA instead of saying wanna go out tonight? say, would you like to go here or there tonight.
  3. Be a good listener. Sometimes the simplest things help. If they need to rant about all their frusterations or upset feelings ( even if you knowwww and have been there) step down a moment and give them the attention they need.

Yes, there can also be many other things you can do to help out with culture shock, but it is imporant to keep in mind the basics of the situation. It is a temporary phase, and the initial joy and excitement you experience when you first came will resurface eventually. Change is an important part of life and once you learn to embrace it and live off of it, there is no limit to the adventures you can have abroad.

xxA

Peaches vs. Coconuts

Peaches vs. Coconuts

I am sure we have all at one point or another heard this metaphor, and if not. Lemme lay it out for ya.

It is said Americans are like peaches. We have a sweet, please-everyone soft outer layer that likes to be social and share all personal facts with the world, whilst we hide our problems deep down, in a compacted pity core.

Germans on the other hands are the coconuts. Gruff, hard exteriored nuts ( nut? seed?or idk fruit, what exactly is a coconut..brb googling)* they waste no time exaggerating social protocols and remain nice and closed off to the world. Unless you are special, do the hard work and get under that tough exterior to experience the good soft stuff within.

Honesly, whoever made this up was kind of wierd to compare a peach to a coconut. While I agree, Americans are awfully peachy. I think calling Germans a coconut doesn’t make much sense. At best, they are unripe avocados; they take a little time and a bit of waiting and then BAM ripe AF for the taking.

I think Germans get a harder rap then reality. Sure they are pretty reserved. Socializing, making friends takes time and commitment, but on the other hand I feel it makes sense. If you don’t know someone, you dont owe them closure.  It takes time to build relationships and bonds. Perhaps I am just a little biased though. I have never been a fan of my countries quick to cozy up attitude; I simply don’t trust it.

How do you all feel about this? Whats your idea on peach and coconut model?

 

 

* According to google “a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, also known as a dry drupe. However, when using loose definitions, the coconut can be all three: a fruit, a nut, and a seed. Botanists love classification.

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Moving to Germany, 2 years later

Moving to Germany, 2 years later

As many people have asked, and continually do so, I have finally decided to sit down and answer a why German post. Coming from Hawaii to Munich always seems to baffle people in conversation, and when the initial shock is over questions about the expat experience come up.

Where are you originally from?

I was born in California, raised in Hawaii and then moved back to Cali for a couple years for college. I would say Im not from either 100% but a good solid west coast mix.

 

What made you decide to move away from the US?

Have you ever been to California or Hawaii? paradise. ok you got me. However, economically it is a disaster.  At some point I found myself beginning to get trapped under mounds of debt and realized that having no health insurence was not a way I wanted to live my life. I was in dire need of some stability. So I packed my bags and searched for a new home with more opportunities and benefits.

 

How did you decide on settling in Munich?

I initially did some test runs in my search for a new home. I had some time in Geneva, Paris and London, but all the while I had a nack for visiting Munich and eventually fell in love with it.

 

Do you have family or live alone?

Most of my family is gone now ( one of the major reasons I left America) However, I did start out in Munich as an aupair but now I am a full fledged adult and live alone. On occasion I will visit my German family so I cannot say I am entirely out here alone and roughing it.

 

Was it easy making friends or adjusting to the culture?

HAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Oh boy is this the question. I could write a thesis on this bad boy, and have probably verbally done so many times. The German culture – in contrast to American- is a very hard nut to crack. In America it is easy to walk out and talk to any old Joe on the street and build an ever lasting friendship eventually. but no, not here. Germans are very reserved and very exclusive. You meet people basically only through other people and if you cant speak German at all it can be very difficult. I mean I must admit I have heard Munich is extra difficult regarding this and if I was in another city it may be easier..but I chose the hard route. All in all I cannot fully complain though, in a way I really appreciate it a bit more in comparison to the over friendly American style. I find here when you actually can get into a social circle, the friends you make tend to be far more loyal and valuable.

How do you cope with homesickness?

In all honesty I do not have so much homesickness as Munich feels to me more like a home than any other place I have previously lived. Sometimes though, when Ive had a hard day or want to cry from studying the language I will go get a Starbucks. It may be over price, under quality coffee but it does taste the same in every country.

 

How long did it take to learn German?

This is a pretty reletive question. First things first, German is extremely hard. Most expats I have met tend to avoid learning it. They find when everyone here speaks english it doesnt make so much sense but also I takes a loooootttttt of work and investment.  I was lucky. I chose to start my Munich transition as an aupair so I had some good time in between working hours to hunker down and focus on studying. I did sacrfice a lot of my free time to catch up from a life of single language living and many a times cried because learning German grammar is a night mare. Now I am about a B2 ( just under native speaker) my comprehension is about perfect but since I work in english my speaking is not soooo ideal.

 

Do you feel at home yet?

For the most part I can answer this yes. In my first year it was really hard and I often felt very alone and reminded I did not belong. I did not know the city well and was very shocked by the culture. Going into my second year ( and once I learned German) I began to feel more at ease. Now that the second year is nearly over I can say I am very well settled. I have a perfect flat, job, my language skills are blooming, the social situation is..almost solved.. all in all I am just about as cozy and content as an expat could be. I’ve come to find that calling somewhere home is not about being happy because everything alway being perfect, its about feeling happy when nothing is going right. It is always a struggle in some way or other to make it here but at the end of the day I find it always works out well for me. Some way or another.

Playing about Paris

Playing about Paris

What better way to begin your first eurotrip than with a trip to Paris?

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and no no, I’m no spring chicken when it comes to the euro game, but my Californian cousin S sure is. She planned to finally get out of the country with a three week trip to stay with me, and naturally we had to plan to do some traveling elsewhere.

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As  I have ( or havent) previously mentioned, I used to live in Paris. So for me, it was more of a revisiting my youth.

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but onward to the trip. It started out great, we even made a friend on the plane

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When we arrived in Paris it was sunny and divine. We met up with my friend N from London

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Pose pit stop

and headed straight to the Parisian Paradise that is Ladurée

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my happy place

We had a marvelous afternoon tea and were in Macaron heaven

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take away treasures

We unfortunately were only in Paris for two days, so the rest of the time we ran around doing all the splendid touristy things and sight seeing.

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We ran around all the major monuments,

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Notre Dames

strolled by the Sein

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a little pop by the Moulin Rouge

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and ate in far too many cafes

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So many decisions, so little time

I must admit, I really do love the culture in that city. It can be very difficult at times(a reason I didnt stay) but as a visitor its nice to see how everyone moves so casually and in their own way. They seem to do what they want, when they want and dont care otherwise. The cafe life is much different as well.

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late nights in Montmartre

Going out is about spending time with people, not a focus on the eating itself. You enjoy your company, the view, the time. Theres no pressure or rush to do anything else but enjoy yourself.

Although our trip was brief, it was grand. And the perfect european introduction for S.

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Paris 101: Bread is life

As for me, I will be back very soon… as my macaron stash is getting low

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Laduree all day

 

 

The Troubling Tel Aviv Half Marathon

The Troubling Tel Aviv Half Marathon

Tel Aviv track…not for beginners..

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or for people who trained in the snow all winter…

Honestly,  I cannot begin to say how unprepared I was for this run.

THIS RUN ahhh oh my god was it hard. I swear, I had no idea. I had googled it and every where online people were like ” ohh yess, it was so fun and soo easy. I just ran it in a breeze blah blah blah facile” LIES all of them LIES.

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runderful start to the  morning

The run started at 6am..It was slightly cool and we were all warming up jogging to the starting point.

I had woken up at 5 to prep and have time to make my way across the city

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Sorry keto, I got to cheato

I had a little carb boost and espresso per usual before a race, so I was feeling fabulous and ready to go

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Calm before the storm/ swarm

It was massive and colourful set up at the start. Everyone was waiting around, stretching and preparing

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orange is the new blue

We all then crammed our way to the starting line. Apparently online it said that the event in total had around 40.000 runners ( which I could totally believe!) we were packed like sardines and the sun was beginging to come out…dun dun daaaa

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oh boy, look an incline

BAM we headed out. Music blasting, the crowd cheering as per a usual running event, but one thing I noticed was that most people did not start out with extra power, but started out with more ease. The sun was coming up and it felt oh so casual..but I went ahead full power like my usual starting method..big mistake..tremendous, yuge.

Now other than that during the race I did not get many photos, mainly due to the fact I was absolutely dying. As we ran the sun rose higher and higher, as did the temperature. Not a single cloud in the sky it seemed.And the hills, oh those damn hills! I never thought Tel Aviv had so many inclines when I was exploring it earlier but let me tell you, it ddoooooessssss

Aside from the personal issue I do have to note the course was amazingly setup, the motivation and the crowds gave you so much strength. Every couple kilometers there were stages with Dj’s playing you onward

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Like seriously, every 2km a guy like this was waiting

but back to me dying.

SO as I was trudging along, hoping to death for a nice sea breeze to come save me, my knee gave out.THATS RIGHT km number 12 I became a hobbly old man. It was just this sudden crack and I felt like I would fall over. I got dizzy and naseous and slowed to a crawl. I tried to pick the speed back up but I couldnt. However I realize there was no other options and I kept hobbling forward the next 9km to the end. It was absolute hell and I have to admit at the end I cried the whole last 1,5km. I was sooo over it.

I made it though.

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got my razzle dazzle medal and a handy dandy snack box

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I headed to the medical, got some nice ice for my knee, then proceded to throw up in the toilets..puuuhhh runners life

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All in all, I absolutely fell in love with Tel Aviv. The run is hard, dont kid yourself. And when in doubt ice it out…but dont get me wrong, Ill be back next year..with vengeanceeeeee