cross-cultural specialists like to focus on overcoming things. for instance, overcoming communication barriers. overcoming language difficulties and overcoming religious differences. and most of all, they like to focus on overcoming culture shock. having studied this soft science for five years, i know it inside out and upside down. i know the five phases of cultural adjustment by heart and i’ve written about them. i have been through it more than once and i know the symptoms of culture shock – or what i prefer to term cultural readjustment syndrome -so well i could recognize it in my sleep.
so what i am going to do now is give myself permission to wallow, because, right now, i am just not strong enough to overcome anything, and i know i am not the only person out there going through this.
i said it on facebook the other day and i’ll say it again. emigrating is hard. it is hard financially, emotionally and physically. you drain your back account in a flat second and never plan for expenses that crop up after you arrive. you have to lug your appropriately named luggage all over god’s green earth and then traipse around a new city trying to find your way. and you have to somehow make friends and overcome that horrifying feeling of isolation, language barrier and loneliness, not to mention re-learn simple tasks you should have already mastered, such as cooking, cleaning and sometimes even walking. going to the ATM can present a serious crisis. so can eating dinner, buying toilet paper and getting subway tickets.if you haven’t already come to the conclusion that i am struggling with life in the czech republic, i am. at first, i thought about keeping this stuff off my blog, but hell… this is a huge part of my life and it is a huge part of traveling, so why not? for the record and just to be upfront – i do not hate prague or the czech republic or its people, and eventually, i will adjust to living here. but right now, i am struggling and this writing thing is part of my process. so here it is.
what am i struggling with and why?
cultural adjustment syndrome comes in 5 phases – the first one is the honeymoon period, where you are all gaga over the new place and think everything about it is wonderful. i have had my moments of that since we arrived, but basically, i jumped straight to phase 2: the depression period. isolation, loneliness and fear drive this part of the adjustment period, and even the smallest tasks can represent a huge crisis for someone during this time.
why did i jump straight to phase 2? i have no idea. maybe because prague is just european enough to be familiar, so i’ve already experienced all the “exciting parts” of living in europe before. or maybe it’s just because i am so damn negative. i don’t know.
i was just reading on some study abroad website how one girl came to prague and said she didn’t have to adjust at all and that it was “just like america” and such an easy place to live. i feel that someone like that probably didn’t experience the real prague at all, simply going day to day in the central part of town, living like an extended tourist and never really “settling” here.
i am trying desperately to settle and finding it difficult for several reasons.
a) i work at home. this means i have no co-workers to befriend. no instant people to go out with and no one from whom to glean that oh-so-crucial first-timers’ advice.
b) our finances are bleak. right now, our finances are quite tough. i won’t bore you with the details – it’s all about emigrating and settling somewhere new. it drains your bank account and we were poor to begin with. enough said.
c) i am pre-diabetic. i never blogged about this, so it’s time i outed myself. about 2 months before we left the US, i was diagnosed with pre-type 2 diabetes and possible polycystic ovarian syndrome and put on insulin-regulating drugs and a diabetic diet. that’s right – i am on a no-sugar, no-carb diet in the land of bread, beer and dumplings. just to be unnervingly clear – this is not a weight-loss diet, it is a “you better stick to this or you will develop diabetes and risk going into a diabetic coma and dying” way-of-life diet.
you can imagine the effect this is having on the meagre amount of socializing i am trying to do (mostly with bill’s new co-workers) who look at me sideways when i order sparkling water in a beer pub. (for the record, the czechs invented pilsner, so beer is a pretty important part of the culture here.)
so, what now? wah wah wah, right?
the answer is, i don’t know. life sucks right now and i am living in the hope and belief that it will get better as time goes on.
i am sorry to those of you reading who are rolling your eyes going, “whatever. you are in PRAGUE. what have YOU got to complain about?” i know, right? people like me should never complain about anything and have perfect lives in exotic places. but this is the reality of my life as i live it, and that’s the honest truth.
not sugar-coated (because i’m diabetic remember?)