Culture Shock–In Words

I’ve grown a lot in the past couple years.

I talk about that a lot.

I preach about it, really.

Just last night, new friends of mine were commenting on my maturity for a twenty-two year old and I just said in reply, “Well, I grew up a lot in college.”

And I did. I did grow up a lot in college. I found my confidence and my independence and my strength and college and I am so thankful for that.

But today? Today I am feeling vulnerable.

Today, I am sitting my new apartment in my new town in Thailand. It’s the weekend after my first week of teaching English and I have no plans but to explore my city and get to know the area a little better. I have plans with friends next weekend, but this weekend I needed for myself.

I have done so much in the last few weeks–leaving Chiang Mai where my TESOL course was and moving to Nong Khai, traveling to Vientiane, Laos and then to Bangkok, accepting a new position at a different school, and moving from Bangkok to my new town in Nakhon Pathom Province just north of Bangkok. I started teaching the day after I got here and have been going, going, going since then…and I’ve had no time to process anything–new school, new town, new everything. I had no time to experience culture shock in Nong Khai because I was so absorbed in being certain that I didn’t want to be there. Now, I’m here and I’m processing and the culture shock is real and I’m exhausted. And scared.

I look in the mirror at my desk as I write this and I see a face filled with apprehension and uncertainty. This city that I have moved to–it’s going to be my home for 5+ months. And I’m realizing now how much that scares me. How discomforting setting down roots anywhere is for me. Not only that, but I look in the mirror and wonder what I did to deserve this town that I feel so comfortable in, this school and these students that fill me with such joy. I wonder if maybe I should have stayed in Nong Khai, if maybe I should have accepted my unhappiness there as a temporary space for more learning and growth within me.

I’m feeling vulnerable right now, remember?

Questions like this are what makes vulnerability so scary. But also, I think, so useful.

So much has happened in the last month. I’ve been so consistently over stimulated. So it’s about time that I draw inward and take some time for me. It’s about time that, in that process, my confidence wavers, if only for a moment.

At my core, I am am an introvert who is afraid of being alone. When I am at my best, I find my confidence and strength and feel so at peace alone. But, at moments when my confidence wavers–moments like this–that core battle that I’ve struggled with for most of my life–my need to be alone and fear of being along–it all comes back to me.

Right now, I am so afraid. But I’m also more alert and aware of myself than a Britta of a few years ago ever was. I know that no one else can get through this but me. This bout of vulnerability. This culture shock and this over stimulation and this desperate need to process everything that has happened in the last month.

Today, I am scared.  Today, I am terrified. But if I don’t allow myself to embrace that fear and move forward, who will?

I wrote this on this past Saturday, November 7, during a period of intense anxiety and uncertainty. I’m sharing this with you now to exemplify that nothing about being an expat or a traveler in general is easy. I was talking with a friend the other day about how travel blogs generally only focus on the good and beautiful and exciting parts of traveling…but there is so much more than that. As exciting as traveling is, as exhilarating as being an expat is, it’s also unbelievably scary. I may be living an adventurous life these days, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake.

13 Replies to “Culture Shock–In Words”

  1. One thing I have learned is that nothing worth going through is easy. I felt that same way when I moved to LA for good. I basically just cannonballed into the pool and went head first. The first year was probably the hardest year of my life, but also the most rewarding at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, absolutely. I’d always rather push myself and feel a little bit (or a lot) uncomfortable than feeling lost and stifled in a safe bubble.

      This transition sure as hell isn’t easy and I don’t want it to be easy, but it will be so rewarding.

      That said, the bad days are still bad and they still suck hardcore and it’s hard to remember how worth it it will be when you’re feeling so crummy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Britta, you’ll be awesome there! Don’t worry. Everyone has to move at some point of there life and admittedly, even if it is harder for the introverted, ultimately (as I have experienced), they come out as entirely new people and what they experience is different from they’ll ever do. All the best, and I hope you find your place there.


    1. Thanks so much, Akanksha!
      This culture shock is all part of the process.
      I think I will find my place here. I’m not worried about that. I feel so welcome at my school and I do really love my town. But it’s still a process. I definitely wasn’t expecting this to be easy and it certainly ISN’T easy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just bear in mind that this is totally part of the package. It is absolutely normal to feel lost and anxious after the “honey moon”. It is such a total change. Take time for yourself and yourself only as you perfectly did. Book a 2 h massage, it will help with releasing the tension and the knots.

    THen reach OUT. You are fortunate to be in a city full of expats and people with similar interests as yours. So reach out and make your little tribe. All I know for sure after more than a decade of expatriation that it is not about the place. But about the people. Once you ll have a few friends, it will make such a difference ..
    Connect to Meetups, to Internations, to local groups .. Build your social circle.
    Let me know if you want me to introduce you to some US friends of mine in BKK, they are all super hyper sweet! You ll connect super easily 🙂 You have no idea how good it feels to be among your peers from times to time when you are so far from home.

    I meant to write a post about the CUlture shock in the upcoming weeks, I ll do it earlier so we can talk about it . Take care sweetie and if there is anything I can do from here, let me know XXX


    1. On my best days, I know that it’s all part of the package, but it is hard to remember that on that bad days. Thank you for the reminder, Estelea.

      Haha, I’m so glad I live in a country where massages are so cheap and EASY to come by 🙂

      Well, my town isn’t full of expats. Myself and the five other western teachers here are the only expats here. I am close to Bangkok, but it still s 45 minutes away.

      I’d definitely be interested in meeting some of your BKK friends once I’m a bit more settled in here! Thanks so much, Estelea! It definitely does feel so good to be among my peers, which is why I’m glad I’m not the only western teacher at my school.

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Estelea. They mean so much. ❤


  4. I’m thinking of you so much Britta ! These feelings are so real.., they are part of your journey along with the decision to change cities and to be where you are right now… It was the right choice I believe because your gut never deceives you… Hang in and know you aren’t alone:) We are right next to you in spirit !


  5. The biggest and best things in life are the hardest. I love your statement about being an introvert who is afraid to be alone. I think that is a fear we ALL have–introvert and extroverts alike. I love your honesty–you’re right, travel blogs usually only focus on the positive aspects of adventure, not the negative ones. I tried to capture that when I was abroad on my travel blog as well. Keep your chin up, Britta. You are strong and WILL get through this. Culture shock comes and goes in ways. Give it time. And, the next time you have one of those terrible days, read your blog comments. You’ve got a whole army of supporters here on WordPress. 🙂


    1. Yup, they sure are! Feelings suck sometimes, but they are so important to acknowledge, especially in major periods of transition like the one I’m in. Overall, I love Thailand and I’m so happy to be here, but it’s still definitely hard at times. That said, all the love and smiles I get from my kindergartners everyday seriously makes up for all the anxiety and homesickness I’ve been feeling over the past few days.

      Thank you, Amelia. You’re right. I do have an army of supporters. I started blogging for myself and still blog for myself, but what really keeps me going is all the amazing people I’ve met here. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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