It’s been three months since my ESL journey began. Throughout the first two months, I had to make a lot of adjustments, but I never lost that I’m in Asia/this is so cool state of mind.
Sometime around the end of April, the culture shock hit. I don’t know what triggered it. I missed some things at home, and realized I’d miss a lot more things as the year goes on. I accidentally ate something that might have been sauced in duck blood—not fun as a vegetarian. I got stared at one too many times.
It wasn’t any single thing, but all of a sudden I was looking at flight prices and panicking. I just wanted to walk down the street without feeling like a sideshow, and to order plain food with no surprises or language barrier.
It was even more a shock to me when I realized I was going through culture shock. I’ve lived in other countries. I did a semester in Auckland, and took classes in Paris and Prague. I know a little French, and no Czech, yet I’ve always thrived in Europe.
The difference with Taiwan is that no matter what I do, I can never fit in. If I don’t open my mouth, I can blend into anywhere in Europe. Where I live here, I’m just far enough from Taipei that Westerners are an oddity. People stare. I am not one of them, nor could I ever be.
I’ve never felt like an outsider before. It’s an odd experience, but I know I won’t be here forever, so while I am, all I can do is be myself and go about my life. My experiences in Taiwan are definitely broadening my horizons.
And as quickly as the culture shock came, so it went. A new frozen yogurt place opened near our school, I got more teaching hours, and started planning a vacation. The flow of life is the same here as it is at home. There are ups and downs. Good days and bad days.
I miss my family. And pizza. But where else in the world could I drink all the bubble milk tea that I want? Where else could I work two or four hours a day and get healthcare and all the money I need to be sufficient? Where else would I have this much time for writing?
I’m happy 95% of the time, and working on keeping perspective during the other 5%.
Wherever you live, 95% happiness is not too shabby.