So, are you feeling a little Covid 19 Quarantine Culture Shock? It’s been long enough that the novelty is long gone, yet the end is still unclear. Girlfriend, I’m hear to say, “I feel ya!”
Some of you may or may not know that I have served as a global worker in Asia for over 25 years. And in that time I’ve experienced a lot of stuff. I’ve lived in cities with only one other English-speaking family. I’ve experienced earthquakes, typhoons, mudslides and I added a volcanic eruption scare this year. I’ve lived through no internet, no water, no electric and no water or electric. I’ve spent years away from my extended family and kids and yes, I’ve been robbed twice.
But, this Covid 19 pandemic and the necessary quarantine is a first for me.
Typically, I have always looked to the US as my oasis from the challenges of overseas life, but now I see that my American friends are wading through the same unfamiliar waters. I also realize that while I have grown accustomed to navigating the unknown, this sensation is likely new and challenging for many of you.
My friend and fellow global worker, Heather, recently pointed out that this new quarantine evokes feelings similar to the culture shock she and I have experienced in our cross-cultural life. So, I’ve invited her to share her thoughts to encourage you in this journey.
As I’ve scrolled social media and seen countless posts regarding the outbreak, I have begun to recognize some signs of a familiar friend/foe of the expat…Culture Shock.
It might sound strange, but hear me out. Culture shock usually refers to the range of emotions we feel when we’re taken out of our familiar culture or context and dropped into unfamiliar territory. We realize the way we’ve always done things isn’t working. The communication we’ve relied on has changed. Our surroundings feel scary and different and hard. Tasks that used to be simple are no longer so. We feel homesick for what used to be. We are ready to conquer the world one moment and curled up in fear the next.
If it does, here are a few things I’ve learned in dealing with culture shock in a foreign country that just might be applicable to you, wherever you are, as you find your way in a new culture of pandemic and quarantines.
It’s important to process honestly what you’re feeling and thinking. Talk about your feelings with trusted people. Admit when you’re afraid or anxious, but then choose to operate in what you know instead of what you feel. And make sure what you “know” isn’t only what you see on the news or social media.
When I was a new expat in our host country, I felt helpless. All the things I used to do by myself became tasks I had to re-learn, and I needed help. Do you feel overwhelmed because you suddenly have to home-school your kids, adjust your budget, change your daily routine, learn to work from home, shop/cook/eat differently? Ask for help! I bet you’ll be amazed at the support you receive.
This whole crazy pandemic is hard, friends. And there is no way to expect anyone to navigate this situation perfectly. People are going to speak and act in fear and grief and desperation and (gasp)…you will too. You’ll be short with your spouse or kids. You’ll complain too much. You’ll wish you had been more prepared or had a bigger savings account. Remember…grace. Receive grace, extend grace. Be kind to yourself and others.
You don’t need to be thinking about next month or even next week. You’ll have grace to deal with those moments when they come. Don’t try too hard to project or plan for the future because you’re expending energy on possibilities, rather than on what’s right in front of you. In our host country, plans change daily! Keep your morning routine. Pray and read the Word. Play a game with your kids. Figure out the next meal. Pay the next bill. Call your parents and check on your friends. There’s grace for today, and when tomorrow comes…there will be grace for that too.
In the midst of culture shock, it is imperative to remember that even when the world feels upside-down, there are some things that haven’t changed. When we identify what those are, it helps us stay grounded in the chaos. Maybe it’s a Friday pizza night tradition; tucking your kids in bed each night with a story and a prayer; or walking early in the morning.
Make a list of all the things that haven’t changed, and find a few to focus on that will help foster a sense of consistency and familiarity in your life and family.
I hope you find these things helpful. Hang in there, friends. Culture shock is not fun in the moment, but I can say from experience that it grows us in beautiful and profound ways if we let it.
You will never be the same, but when it’s all said and done, I bet you’ll be glad you aren’t.
I know I am.
Heather is a life-long wanderer, having lived in 8 states, 2 countries and 16 houses. For the past 15 years her amazing husband has made the journey much sweeter, and their three children have added lots of fun (and a little chaos) to the adventure. Heather and her family currently reside in a mountain village in SE Asia where she spends her days homeschooling, making all the things from scratch, learning language, taking too many pictures of cute grandmas and water buffalo, and drinking lots of coffee. She blogs at: fallisfiveasianadventure.com