Ex­pats in China suf­fer from a cul­tural cri­sis every three years

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Cather­ine Val­ley Page Ed­i­tor: chen­shasha@glob­al­times.com.cn

If you feel like your joy for China is start­ing to fade and that ev­ery­thing that once felt nor­mal ap­pears weird to you, then most prob­a­bly you are a for­eigner ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the “Laowai’s (out­sider) cri­sis.” It ap­pears every three years and is linked with sig­nif­i­cant “cul­tural adap­ta­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of Ari­zona State Univer­sity, Michael Winkel­man, adap­ta­tion goes through four dis­tinct stages: hon­ey­moon phase, cri­sis pe­riod (cul­ture shock), ad­just­ment phase, and ac­cep­tance and adap­ta­tion phase.

When a for­eigner comes to a new coun­try, the dif­fer­ences be­tween the old and new are seen in a ro­man­tic light and bring on the “eu­pho­ria” of a hon­ey­moon. This, how­ever, changes af­ter ap­prox­i­mately three years, when once new and beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings be­come a reg­u­lar part of ev­ery­day life. Di­min­ish­ing ex­cite­ment and one’s abil­ity to learn new things mark the be­gin­ning of the “Laowai’s cri­sis.”

My hon­ey­moon with China lasted ex­actly three years be­fore it came to a bit­ter con­clu­sion. Things that I once loved about Chi­nese cul­ture, peo­ple and so­ci­ety be­came frus­trat­ing to me.

My fa­vorite dishes be­came too oily and spicy. Street food that I once en­joyed ap­peared un­ap­pe­tiz­ing and un­healthy. I re­mem­ber rolling my eyes every time I saw clouds of steam com­ing up from the huge bowl of oil in the red lantern-lit food trol­leys.

I also could no longer stand all the noise on the streets. End­less hoot­ing, spit­ting, ar­gu­ing and shout-talk­ing seemed to be fol­low­ing me ev­ery­where I went. Ev­ery­thing be­came so an­noy­ing that I sim­ply could not un­der­stand how, for the past three years, I had such a happy life in China.

This is when my friends who had been in China for more than five year first told me that I am most likely ex­pe­ri­enc­ing “Laowai’s cri­sis” but that I would soon re­cover. Even­tu­ally I did. Af­ter two months of feel­ing dis­ori­en­tated, I started en­joy­ing China again. I re­turned to my fa­vorite Chi­nese dishes and the loud sounds, noises and other ir­ri­ta­tions faded into noth­ing­ness.

Af­ter my re­cov­ery, I re­al­ized that the rea­son I felt down with life in China had to do with my sur­round­ings. Lousy weather, a lack of true friends, miss­ing home and a busy pe­riod at school and work can make any ex­pat feel de­pressed.

When this cri­sis hap­pened to me, I was work­ing on my the­sis in Chi­nese while the weather was par­tic­u­larly mis­er­able. I was strug­gling with a for­eign lan­guage and iso­lated in my cold room. No won­der I felt so un­happy.

How­ever, sooner or later, all crises come to an end. Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists, the cri­sis phase should be changed with the ad­just­ment and ac­cep­tance phases. This is when we can once again start call­ing an­other coun­try “home.”

In or­der to re­cover from cul­ture shock as fast as pos­si­ble, I rec­om­mend to other for­eign­ers to not panic but in­stead think about all the ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ties that are avail­able in China, es­pe­cially Shang­hai. Plenty of events, in­ter­na­tional res­tau­rants, night­clubs and the chance to meet peo­ple from all over the world in one city make liv­ing in Shang­hai a joy.

Quick pay­ments with QR codes, on­line shop­ping, cheap de­liv­ery ser­vices, a con­ve­nient trans­porta­tion sys­tem and shared bi­cy­cles also make life in Shang­hai much eas­ier. If all th­ese ad­van­tages still do not work for you and you still want to run away, don’t for­get that cul­ture shock goes both ways: upon ar­rival in a for­eign coun­try and af­ter re­turn­ing home. More of­ten than not, re­verse cul­ture shock can be even worse.

In ei­ther case, it might not be a bad idea to just wait un­til the weather warms up and your work is done. Such small changes will al­low you to fall back in-love with China... at least for an­other three years. The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.