Why Culture Shock is Inevitable

Updated: Jan 9, 2019

I guess I thought maybe the third time around I’d be used to the way things are in this country and the inevitable “OMG phase” would not have hit me like a high-speed train. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life is leaving everything that I know behind in America and living in a foreign country. It is not easy. You have to take into consideration the communication, the god-awful public transportation, the lack of customer care & service, and the things that happen that we wish we could change but can’t. The beginning of this experience had not been as sparkly-amazing, and awe-inspiring as I felt when I first arrived in Rome in 2016. I recently told my best friend “you know sometimes I am so focused on my work and getting comfortable where I am that I forget the feeling of when you find yourself in a new place and notice all the beauty around you.” I realized this when we were walking around Venice during the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life. The first time I came to Venice was the first weekend trip I made outside of Rome, and because of this my friends and I struggled. We were nervous, maybe we under planned, and we might have had high expectations. I don't think we fully appreciated Venice for its natural beauty. This time around I understood why people fall so in love with the city that always seems to be overrun with tourists.

With that, I feel like each day that I am here I become more and more Italian in terms of lifestyle, fashion, and my knowledge of the language. However, with each passing day I cannot help but feel more and more American. American is something I never feel. I tell people all the time, sure I am from America but I don’t feel American. I guess I feel more European. I feel comfortable in a place where I have found a home in all of the cities I’ve been to, a place where people know how to dress well, eat well, and live well. I guess I have met such genuine people here in Europe that when I go home I feel like I do not meet people who are the same (apart from my friends, of course). While i'm here, I go to my lessons and talk to my students and I feel so American. Even when they say things about Americans that are either not true or highly exaggerated. I tell them, I am probably the only American who is not fond of burgers or coca-cola. But then there are some things that happen here that remind me of the things I do at home and it is all just so different.

Gourmet Burgers in Como!?

I face timed my entire family for Thanksgiving, still not sure if that was a good idea or not because I started to cry immediately. There are some things that just cannot be replaced or redone when you’re living in another country and one of those things is holidays. I feel lucky to be celebrating Christmas with my cousins in Vasto, and that’s the only thing getting me through this holiday season. I’ve thought my entire life what it would be like to have grown up with my Italian cousins and having Christmas together, and now I get to live it.

Despite the winter depression that had started to sink in back then which made me feel even worse about the horrendous “OMG” period and culture shock rollercoaster, there still were amazing moments that made me feel so lucky to have had this experience. I truly believe a place is only as good as the people in it. My best friend always says that. With that being said, location and people are everything when it comes to living abroad. As soon as I had a change of scenery and was around people who truly cared about me, my culture shock started to go away. I found myself back in that phase of never wanting to leave, and I rediscovered those moments where you look at everything and realize how every fleeting moment in life is valuable and worth appreciating in the present moment.

The Localist Abroad
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© Ashley Nicole Weimar.