Culture Shock

So, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what to write about for this week’s post.  The last few weeks I haven’t really gone anywhere interesting or done much that didn’t involve college-style drinking antics, which anyone who’s found themselves in an expat community can attest factors into most social situations.  Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that- it just doesn’t make for particularly interesting writing.

One pleasant thing that we (the other native English speakers of the area with a few Korean co-teachers sprinkled in) did do was have an early Thanksgiving meal of sorts.  I helped whip up some mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, and everyone chipped in something, which made for a pretty good substitute for the real thing.  There are a lot of folks in the area, which has helped the transition to life in Korea much easier.

Speaking of that transition, I’m definitely in a valley part of the whole culture shock cycle.  When I joined Peace Corps, one of the first things they talked about was how ‘culture shock’ (the inevitable emotions produced by immersing yourself in a culture foreign to your own) was like a classic graph of a wave- peaks (elation) would be followed by valleys (depression) and the process continues with the peaks and valleys starting to flatten out the more that time passes.

I definitely found this to be an apt metaphor when I went through my service, and especially at first I would go through phases of being excited just to wake up and experience all the new things the day would bring followed by ones where I was convinced that almost every Peruvian resented my presence and was out to obstruct me at every turn.  This was obviously not the case, but whenever I had a setback during one of these periods, it was hard not to paint the whole culture and all it’s stupidity (as I perceived it) with a broad brush.

Well, long story even longer, I’m definitely in a down period right now, which is why I’ve been resisting writing about my experience here (particularly working) as I just don’t see any way it won’t come out colored with anger and cynicism.  So, I just keep telling myself over and over that:

1.  Not all the teens in your class are awful human beings, just a select few.

2.  Disrespect or lack of results just means you need to be stronger at discipline and work harder preparing classes

3.  The language barrier is making your job at least ten times harder, so just study some more Korean already

4.  The phenomenon of teens being truly, truly terrible little people is not solely a Korean problem: a cocktail of rampant hormones and poor parental discipline only comes out tasting one way, no matter where you come from

5.  At least these aren’t your kids, and you’ll always have this powerful disincentive to forgo using protection

See, I told you that would come out cynical.  On the plus side, in a couple weeks I’ll probably be waxing ecstatic about all the beauty and  culture here.  ‘Cause that’s how the culture shock cycle goes.



About zijerem

I spent two years neglecting my Peace Corps blog in Peru ( and now I've relocated to Korea (teaching English) and promise to get off my ass and write something every once in awhile...
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2 Responses to Culture Shock

  1. gslupski says:

    Zach, I love your writing on this post, Very honest. I know a middle school teacher here in the states who was feeling very similar at one point. Hang in there. It sounds like you’re working hard and doing a great job! 🙂

  2. Jim Jeremiah says:

    Sorry you are feeling down, cousin. If it helps any you are spot-on about unruly teens.

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