Just lately I’ve been feeling homesick. I’m coming up to the 5 month mark now and the honeymoon period has inevitably made way for the next phase in the traditional culture-shock model, known as re-integration.
At this stage nothing feels new any more and the initial excitement of being immersed in a different culture has worn away. Nowadays I find myself getting frustrated with the cultural differences and increasingly hostile towards the locals. I often feel anxious or agitated and can be overly-sensitive about relatively trivial issues at work and outside.
Progressively I’ve felt less inclined to socialise in favour of withdrawing into the chaotic little sanctuary I’ve established in my apartment, to daydream about a
romanticised fantasy version of the country I left behind.
I know this reaction to culture-shock falls firmly under ‘EXACTLY WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE EXPERIENCING CULTURE SHOCK!!!’ so in a bid to snap myself out of it I’ve made a list of the things I like about South Korea. To remind myself that for all of the ways that SK is inferior to the heavily-embroidered England in my head, it also has its good points that I’ve conveniently forgotten about while I’ve been moping.
– Jolly Ajummas – the two old ladies who now regularly have the delight of scrubbing me and my friend down at my local jimjilbang. They speak zero English and we might as well speak zero Korean. Zero problem
– Mystery Mega-Watt Smile Lady – who comes into the office in the morning to deliver the mail (?) while the rest of the teachers are in their homerooms. I’ve tried really hard to maintain my tortured brooding in the presence of The Smile. Not possible