How to deal with culture shock in Korea

Moving to a new country can be an exciting but challenging experience, especially when it comes to dealing with culture shock. South Korea is a country that offers many opportunities for foreign teachers, but adjusting to the culture can be overwhelming at first.

Experts who have written about culture shock have identified four distinct phases that anyone going to live abroad passes through; the amount of time it takes for a person to get through each phase can vary with the individual, but in general, each phase will last longer than the preceding one. Here are some tips on how to deal with culture shock while living and teaching English in South Korea in four phases:

Fascination: an initial period when everything is new and exciting where there are seemingly few problems since everyone is being extremely accommodating. The predominant feeling during this period is one of exhilaration at finally being abroad after a long period of anticipation.

Friendship: immediately following the initial excitement comes the stage where the need to structure a new social support system to replace the one that was left behind at home becomes very important. At this time there is an understandable, but potentially dangerous tendency to find people from the same part of the world for friendship. The problem is that relationships created at this stage could turn into a ‘we-they’ scenario.

Frustration: After enough time has elapsed to become familiar with the new surroundings, as well as to become familiar with the requirements of the new job, a stage of slight depression begins. The result is that hostility towards anyone in your new life becomes the prominent feeling. It seems that every situation, no matter how big or small, turns into something that becomes overly frustrating. This is the period where frustration is at a level where the entire experience is seen as a mistake.

Fulfillment: Although the previous stage takes a bit of time to overcome, the good news is that the next period is one where the entire experience of teaching overseas becomes fulfilling and rewarding. The understanding of the new surroundings and the people that are interacted with daily now become interesting. Compromises are made which lead to a realization that conflicts can be worked out.

As with any new experience in life, it is what you make of it.

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