Moving to Taiwan to teach English was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Experiencing culture shock, while tough, really helped me see what I am capable of getting through in life. Here are the top 5 ways I overcame it.
1. Netflix: Realizing that I could log-in under my mom’s account was one of the best moments of my life. Really. I’m not exaggerating that at all. Having 5 seasons of Gilmore Girls literally saved me. That and discovering that they had double stuffed Oreos and Cheetos in Taiwan. Eating familiar snacks from back home and hiding out when I wanted to be home was a great way to help keep my anxiety levels down.
2. Receiving Packages From Home: Apparently I indicated to some family and friends that it wasn’t all rainbows as my Instagram account would say. In return, they asked me what I wanted/needed from home. From Twizzlers to cooking spices to instant mashed potatoes, and even a mini popcorn maker (once they saw via snapchat that I went to 7-11 to get freshly popped several times a week), they hooked me up! Don’t be afraid to ask people back home for help if you need it. Especially in the first couple of months when you may feel down and are second guessing your decision to move across the world.
3. Put Down the Snacks and Netflix Sometimes: I would limit my binge watching to just after work and didn’t allow myself to be closed off on the weekends. I would walk down new streets, visit new places to eat, and visit neighboring cities for a taste of home. One of my favorite things to do back home was take DIY workshop classes. I found a flyer about a class asked another teacher to go and bam! We made custom necklaces. We have plans to make tote bags, scarves, and so much more!
4. Book Trips: One of the main reasons I got TEFL certified was because I wanted to travel the world. Once I booked my first trip it gave me something to look forward to. It made me excited for my journey and it helped me realize things weren’t so bad. Every time I book a trip I am reminded how fortunate I am to be living abroad.
5. Connect with Family and Friends Back Home: Whenever I felt like I wanted to give up, I would make a call and quickly realized that I had it pretty good in Taiwan. My best friend, for example, would remind me that I was taking a two week vacation to Bali, and would ask me where else I was going. Hearing that she couldn’t do the same would help me stay in check and realize how lucky I am to be living in a foreign country with the world at my fingertips. Let people visit you! Once you post on Facebook that you are moving abroad, requests to come visit you start rolling in. I follow-up and let them cash in! I have had four friends visit and even my mother and father-in-law, too. Feeling a connection to home was amazing and I enjoyed showing them around my favorite places in Taiwan. For more tips, check out How to Maintain Relationships at Home While Teaching English Abroad.
I have been in Taiwan for almost a year now and still have my days of culture shock, especially since I don’t speak Chinese (my fault). The list above helps me stay positive, motivated, and be able to encourage others.
Sandra is a wanna be former child star who recently quit her job of sixteen years and sold all of her worldly possessions (OK maybe not all of them) to travel the world (aka) take amazing photos to post on Instagram. Sandra's advice for her past-self? "I would have studied abroad in college, and then left to teach abroad as soon as I finished. I could have been to so many countries by now if I had not lived in fear of the unknown!'