Do You Suffer From Cultural Fatigue?
Cultural fatigue can be defined as a state of being where the small, adverse intricate of the culture begin to bother you out of reasonable proportion after living in another country for an extended amount of time. – Vagabond Journey
The recent article published on Vagabondjourney.com on “What is Cultural Fatigue” inspired me to write this post because it’s something I can say I definitely experience(d) and I’m glad to be able to pinpoint the issue now. I’m sure many travelers and especially expats experience “cultural fatigue” and it’s an issue that a lot of expats don’t want to admit because it shows that they haven’t completely “adapted” to the culture.
Bad China Day = Cultural Fatigue?
I’ve been asking myself: “Is a ‘Bad China Day’ also cultural fatigue? Is it the first phase? Or should we differentiate between the two?” The only answer I can give you is my personal opinion. I think Cultural fatigue is a Bad China Day but more precisely Bad China Days.
I think we foreigners in China, who are so passionate about the country, need to accept that we sometimes just feel annoyed by the people, the culture, the country… and that’s totally OK!
The issue most expats have is feeling somewhat “embarrassed” to admit they are annoyed by something in the country they choose to live in and they are so passionate about. But why? Sure, we don’t want to “fail” our adventure abroad. We don’t want to seem like lost in our dream. But hey, it’s normal and it happens, and most importantly: It’s OK!
My Cultural Fatigue
According to Vagabond Journey, cultural fatigue appears when:
[…] the constant attention that you must pay to even the most minor inter-cultural interactions seems to take more effort than what it’s worth, when you get sick of trying to figure out another society and/ or your place in it, when the struggle for respect becomes too annoying to continue, or when constantly cross-examining yourself as to whether you took the right action in the right situation becomes unbearable.
At the moment, I’m experiencing an up and down of cultural fatigue. Over the last month or two I had to completely change my life here in China due to some unforeseen circumstances. It annoyed me and still annoys me. The country that I am so passionate about began to show a dark side. I hated it and I hated to admit it even more.
Of course, not everything is dark. There are the many friends I have and the things I love doing here but a lot of my daily life began to annoy me.
I hate how rude some people are here. I hated it when the girl next to me spat on the floor in the bus. I hated it when those people didn’t move from the metro door and let me get off first. I hated when the woman kicked me in the back when she rushed through the bus. I hated it when the one gentlement smoked his cigarette in the elevator.
I hate it that people stare at me each and everyday because I look different.
Cultural Fatigue is OK
I know some people will say “That’s how it is. It’s the culture” or “You knew that before you came here.”
And that is true. Of course, that’s how it is and I knew those things beforehand. I’m not complaining or asking them to change. I just dislike it. And that’s OK for me to feel that way. I was born and raised in a different country, on a different continent and in a different culture and came to China when I was 20. Therefore, it’s impossible for me to fit in 100% and be 100% adapted to each and everything.
But it is not the big differences in culture that really wear down the traveler, but the little things: the the small cultural twitches. (Vagabond Journey)
Let It Go
The moment I let go of the thought I had to be 100% completely adapted and accept each and everything, I was able to breathe again. I will never fit in here. And that is OK. I’m very happy of what I have achieved so far: I have spent almost 1.5 years in China wihtout any major issues. I speak the language. I can talk to people, understand them and I tried lots of “new”, Chinese things. I have tried my best to live life to the fullest here and when I feel angry or irritated and have a “bad China day”, there’s nothing to be ashamed about.
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