Expat

“Culture shock”

Right about now I’m having a hard time remembering why I wanted to move to Thailand. It seemed so exciting, so daring and just like me to move halfway across the world. But honestly it’s a lot of hard work. It’s funny, when you read about traveling you read about the adventure! or the spiritual journey or the everything gone wrong tale of hilarity and delight. I suppose anything in between would be too real.

While experiencing “culture shock”, I asked my boyfriend, did we make a mistake? He replied no. Then he quoted Twain, “In 20 years, you’ll regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did.”

My first reaction was yes, this is true. I nodded, killed another fly with my electrical tennis racket, and tried to push through another day of crying for no apparent reason. My second reaction was no, what if you regretted all the things you tried? Sometimes risks don’t pay off but we don’t like to talk about those things. So we never know if failure, effort, risk taking, etc. is worth the work.

Then a few days later, I discovered my theme of the day (ever have one of those?) and it was: go at your own pace.

I was rereading On Writing Well by William Zinsser, page 79: Writing is Not a Contest. “Every writer is starting from a different point and is bound for a different destination.” Those words not only comforted me as a hungry writer, it made me realize that my feelings of culture shock had to do with feeling like I was losing a race. I spent an entire day crying into my bath towel and sitting on the couch because I didn’t feel like I could do anything else.

What I am discovering is culture is like learning how to walk all over again. Am I supposed to be aggressive or patient? Am I doing something wrong or is what I am expecting the wrong thing? I have felt very stupid, frustrated and confused on a regular basis. I also under-anticipated how much the language barrier would affect my sense of worth.

I can only hope this experience is making me into an even easier going person. I have to remind myself that the key is to not let the unexpected body blows keep me down.

There is a group of young students from America that I’ve been watching (they go to the same school as me) and they seem bitter and rude to everybody for no apparent reason. I imagine they are feeding off of each other in their hot misery. I also have a friend who is heavily hungover by his experiences in Thailand thus far and is willing to share his knowledge to anyone halfway listening.

I don’t want to be like them. While I understand, I don’t want to regret the things that I did. I want to fight. I want to accept culture shock as a phase not a way of life. Because I can’t help but wonder, if we can’t be happy or content here, where will we be?

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