a bitch of a thing

Photo by Florin Draghicicross-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.

[tweetmeme] 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?)

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7 thoughts on “a bitch of a thing

  1. I think what you are experiencing here is exactly what I’ve always feared when it comes to moving to a new country – so thank you for your honesty while you work through it.

    I have no doubt you will! But so hard in the meantime. I’m thinking about you Megan and hoping that in a few months I’ll be able to give you a big hug and hear all about how you’ve overcome this in person! =) (positive thinking, YES!)

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  2. Megan!
    I had no idea you were going through this, and glad you shared. I feel your pain. Paul and I left all security a while back and right after we got married, it was trying at times to say the least.

    The one thing I will say is this, it will make you stronger and in time you’ll be glad you pushed yourself to do and become something new. Everything happens for a reason and I’m sure you’ll stumble across how Prague works for you in due time.

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  3. Erin

    I’m so sorry that you are in what sounds like the worst stage of the 5-step process. Hopefully it will not last much longer. I think you are perfectly entitled to wallow in a bit of self-pity for awhile and, as you know probably better than most, it will start to subside.
    I think the blog you read about the study abroad program is either, one, propaganda crap or two, a girl who had a lot of support from a small community of Americans in a foreign city. So, essentially, I wouldn’t put much faith behind that piece of mumbo-jumbo.
    I’m very sorry to hear about the pre-diabetic news but I’m glad you found out about it early and can now take the steps you need to in order to be healthy. Maybe try to look at it as a fun challenge to learn how to cook new, healthy things?? (I know, I know, that’s probably a stretch.)
    I’m sure the new diet/lifestyle and the shock of having to adjust, once again to a new place, is not easy. But, I’m also sure that you’re doing a great job with it all. Try to think of all the positive things you have and make positives out of the negatives and before you know it life will be back to normal again. Maybe you should watch movies like “L’Auberge Espagnole” and “The Russian Dolls” to make you feel better?

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  4. Oh, Megan! I’m so sorry to hear that. It must be such a hard adjustment. I wonder if you can find a local cooking class in Prague. That would be a great way to meet some new friends. We hope you feel better soon! If you ever want to facebook chat, let us know! We’ll cheer you up! 😀

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  5. kathy

    Hey, Megan! I just read the blog and reminded me of my Stockholm days, where at first I had to force myself to go out of the apartment and do just one thing each day. Doesn’t help that you work at home. Can you take any classes and/or join an exercise group? I have had type 2 diabetes for years – really hard to make that diet change but after a while it does become easier, and my energy level jumped back up, which was a bonus. Hang in there, things willget better, as you know! Ren’ae looks great!

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  6. Pingback: the culinary exploits of a techspat | gypsytracks

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