Surviving Culture Shock in Asia
You will be joining an estimated eight million North American travelers who every year embark on a journey eastward. Although many travel, very few actually have the courage or desire to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time.
It takes bravery and confidence to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and submit to a whole new way of life. If you’ve gotten as far as reading this manual, you may be ready to take the plunge!
Living and working in Asia will be an experience of a lifetime, full of new challenges and learning experiences.
You will be exposed to new sets of values, customs, lifestyles, economics, gestures, language, politics, and religious ideas.
Usually this is a little overwhelming, so it’s best to understand the concept of culture shock before you leave. Culture shock is a reaction to being in a completely new place without the aid of cultural instincts and guidelines. Symptoms range from mild uneasiness, homesickness, and unhappiness to panic, irritability, and hostility. Settling into a new place can cause feelings of isolation and vulnerability, especially when a language barrier prevents you from communicating your most basic needs.
To minimize the effects of culture shock, learn as much as possible about the country you’re going to visit before you get there.
Try not to believe stereotypes, and remember that Asians have their own unique stereotypes of what makes an American an American. You might hear, “Americans are lazy,” or “You must be rich since you’re a Canadian.” Instead of becoming defensive, work to educate people about your country. As a Westerner in Asia, you will be a cultural ambassador of sorts, able to refute any misconceptions and promote cross-cultural communication.
Keep this in mind while in your English classroom. Students want to learn English, but they also want to learn about North American culture. Bring photos and books from home and any teaching aids that might bring Western life closer to your students.