Originally published on ExploreThere.
I was a mess. Cursing as I angrily scooted through notorious Taiwan traffic, I jolted to a stop at the 7-Eleven and kicked my kickstand down as hard as I could. Without taking off my helmet, I went inside, ignoring the greeting from the cashier, and headed straight to the goods. In moments I was at the register, staring down the cashier as my Pringles, Sprite, Fanta, M&Ms, and two packs of Hi-Chews were scanned. Once the transaction was over, I stuffed all my purchases into my tired, faux-leather purse and climbed back aboard my two-wheeled transportation.
Within minutes I was letting myself into my apartment, then into my room, where I lay on my bed, checking Facebook and mindlessly consuming my feelings. Soon I was fighting back tears, and then I was crying. Pathetic, gaping-mouthed, wrappers in both hands, crying like my world was ending.
Several pounds later, I finally figured it out: culture shock. My emotions were as predictable as the weather and often changed even more quickly. The one book I’d read that would supposedly help me with my transition assumed my family had moved with me, and it was about as helpful as a hangnail. I’d quote its sage words, which were written back in the nineties, but I threw the book out during one of my “angry at the entire world” fits that come with culture shock.
It wasn’t until I Googled “culture shock” that I finally figured it out. There are four stages, but they’re not a magical staircase I climbed at an even pace until I reached Perfectly Adapted Foreigner Status. I catapulted from one extreme to the next, one minute angry, the next unbearably sad, and the next relatively happy and civil.
It was a mess I had to go through. Once I stopped feeling guilty for my culture shock and allowed myself to handle it however it felt best, I began to feel better. I met others going through the same emotional turmoil and had a group of supportive friends who held my hand through the most difficult times.
Moving to a new place is starting a new relationship, except one partner does all the compromising. For some people, it’s the perfect fit; it’s the relationship they’ve been searching for, and they fall in love. It takes a few tries for other people to find the right relationship and settle into their comfortable love.
My first love was Austin, Texas, but it wasn’t meant to be forever. Austin taught me more about who I was and who I wanted to be. I love that city, and I always will; maybe, one day, I’ll return. Hsinchu has taught me more than I ever expected, but it’s not meant to be forever. It’s a healthy, but challenging relationship, and some days are more emotionally draining than others. I have no way of knowing where my perfect relationship exists, and I’ll likely go through culture shock again no matter where I move, but hopefully next time I won’t self-medicate with sugar and caffeine.