Culture Shock Got You Down?

August 13, 2014


I have been in Taiwan almost a month, and besides some anxious moments it has been a good time. I met new friends at training in Taipei and we had so much fun exploring and figuring out how to get around in a new country. Once I moved to Fengyuan the cold, harsh reality hit that I was in a new country, by myself. I do believe that wherever you are you are not alone. The blessing of technology has helped me stay in touch with family and friends a good amount. Although the time change puts a wrench in that. Sometimes one has to choose between 8 hours of sleep and a chat with a loved one. There are also several people that want to interact with a foreigner to either practice their English or learn more about where you are from. But, being alone has its perks. You are alone! You set your own time to sleep, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone, etc., etc., but it also has its downfalls when you are having what I like to call a “culture shock day”.

For me a “culture shock day” or a “culture shock moment” is this sudden rush of emotion that comes over me where I wonder what the hell I am doing in freakin’ Taiwan and how did I get myself here and why did I decide to do this???

Thankful these moments are few and far between, but Wednesday I unfortunately had a culture shock moment.

This is what happened:

My phone that I brought with me from the United States has been acting up a little bit. I was having problems with the SIM card part in the US, but not wanting to buy a phone off contract I just brushed it off and said it would be okay and took the phone with me to Taiwan. Well last week my phone decided to start acting up again. In one day it restarted on its own 20 times! I was so pissed I wanted to throw my phone on the ground, and I had some classy words for my phone. With some tinkering it was all right, but it still acts up every now and then. I decided on Tuesday that maybe it was time to look into an IPhone and a phone contract. On Wednesday my branch manager helped me at the store and through miscommunication, and my branch manager not understanding what I was requesting, I was not able to get a phone contract because phone companies are wary about putting contracts under foreigners names and accounts. I think the biggest thing is they think we will bolt without ending our contract so the phone company will be out a lot of money. My branch manager did not understand that I needed her to sign the phone under her name until they would let me switch it over to my name, so by the end of 2 very long hours I was still IPhone-less.


I went home very frustrated and hating all Taiwan phone companies. After looking at the prices of a non-contract IPhone I was even more frustrated. To blow off some steam I walked to the train station and bought my ticket to go visit my friend Rachael in Keelung this weekend. At the train station an older Asian man looked at me funny, and walked up to me and asked me if I was European or American (those poor Canadians…everyone forgets about them). Surprised, I replied that I was American. He told me he is a professor at a university in Sacramento and that he is visiting Taiwan. He then asked me what I was doing in Taiwan and I replied that I live here and I am teaching English for HESS. He got so happy and said something along the lines of bless your heart and I hope you enjoy Taiwan. Then he ran off to catch his train. It was such a random moment, but it was really nice to see some random person appreciate my work, even if I had only been teaching for a short time.


I went home again. This time to have a Skype chat with a Language Exchange partner. My LE taught me some basics like hello, goodbye, thank you, 1-10, can I get, and how much. Although I cannot remember everything I can read the notes that I took. While this should have made me feel better about living in Taiwan that day it actually made me feel worse. All I could keep thinking was “what the heck am I doing in a country where I can’t speak the language!?”.

I spent enough hours after that watching the last few episodes of the final season of How I Met Your Mother. I have no idea why I did that because there was crying in several of the scenes because they were all saying goodbye to each other. This in result made me feel worse.

After a little bit I started crying out of frustration I got mad at myself for crying, and literally gave myself a bathroom mirror talk. It takes the low moments sometimes to make you realize that you are missing the bigger picture. I came to Taiwan for myself. I came to a foreign country to spend time with myself, and just be. This may sound strange but ask any of my friends and they will tell you that the last thing I do is do things for myself 100% and just relax. I finally have a chance to do that. I also came to Taiwan because why not!? The timing was right. America would still be there when I decided it was time to move back. If I just happen to fall in love with a country and a new job along the way then that would be a bonus to the adventure I put myself on.


I dried those damn tears and I packed my rain gear and decided I was going to go to the night market. I spent some time at the night market just being around people, a new environment, eating delicious fried foods (yeah, about losing weight), and bargaining for a purse and shirt. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time I was there because the environment was so upbeat and bustling with movement, sound, and people. I drove my bike back home in the warm Taiwan night air. Looking around and smiling. The culture shock moment was over and I was happy and at peace with the place I decided to make home for the next year. I may be a 12-hour flight from home, an 11-hour time difference from my loved ones, and a complete stranger to almost everyone in Fengyuan, but I am where I am supposed to be.