A situation the other day caught me completely off guard and I’m still a little shocked at how it affected me. I was in a usually comfortable situation and suddenly nothing was familiar. I ended up breaking down and needing to disappear for a while — suddenly feeling overwhelmed with grief for the familiar life I left behind.
I think culture shock happens not necessarily when you’re in a new culture but rather when you have expectations that things will be a certain way, and then you find what you expect to be familiar… different. I have experienced culture shock just a few times in my life and often forget what it’s like. You see, if you decide to expect the unexpected, international life is usually fun and manageable.