I am a piece of paper, ready for origami

The roads look different in Seoul than they do in America. People walk and talk differently. You never see anybody eating alone.

Motorcycles can hit you when you walk on sidewalks and they don’t stop for red lights.

It takes 5 minutes for me to sound out what a sign says, and once I do there’s a better than decent chance that I won’t know what it means anyways.

The other day, as I had a few hours at the end of school to burn, my Co-teacher started talking to me about culture shock.

She drew a squiggled line and placed an X on it. She told me, this is where I think you are as she pointed to the X.

She then labeled each area of the line according to some stage of culture shock: Honeymoon phase, Disintegration Phase, Reintegration Phase, Autonomy Phase, and the Interdependence Stage.

The line she drew looked something like this.


Apparently she believes I am just about to leave the Honeymoon Stage and enter into the Disintegration Stage.

The Honeymoon Stage is a period of excitement about a new culture. People in this stage are generally spectators.

The Disintegration Stage usually begins when a person no longer becomes a spectator, either by force or by choice. It is usually characterized by depression, anger, and a confusion as to who you are in this new culture.

I told her that I might get depressed soon, but I bet it will be because of winter and not culture shock. She didn’t believe me. People here usually don’t.

I did some research and found some links about culture shock. Here is the best one I think.

Essentially what happens is people go through periods where they have to re-discover who they are as people in order to survive in this new culture. It involves anger at yourself, anger at others, and an acceptance followed by a period of rapid swings back and forth as the person attempts to rationalize their two cultural personalities with each other. From what I have heard, many people lose themselves in one of these early stages and eventually fall away from the new culture and isolate themselves. If you can get past these four stages however, you become a newly re-defined person. Two cultures living within yourself.

I am not so sure about this. I have never wanted to definitively define myself as a person and spent lots of time back in the States trying to figure out how to avoid this.  Definitions are limitations and I hate being boxed in.

If one never has a defined personality to adapt, can one experience a personality crisis? I guess we will find out.

I asked Rachel about this and she had also heard about the stages of culture shock. She promised she will be nice to me when I enter my Disintegration Phase.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Narratives

One response to “I am a piece of paper, ready for origami

  1. Wry

    wonderful post. succinct. have a great time.

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