Culture seep

Culture shock is a personal experience. It’s hard to define,  easy to generalize. There are ups, there are downs. It is often described as feeling isolated. There is a fundamental disconnect between those around you. Differences in language, cuisine, and even the minuscular things start to mount up.

‘Shock’ isn’t the right word for it. Shock is when you step outside on a hot day after being in aircon all day. No, culture shock is more of a slow, gradual seep. It reminds of my first-time scuba diving. I took a giant stride off the deck. At first, I felt buoyant, emotionally and physically.  As I was bobbing at the surface, waiting for my divemaster, the cold started to permeate my suit at the ankles. “Shit that’s cold!” No one could hear me with a snorkel in my mouth. Then it started to trickle in at the wrists. I peed in defense to the barrage of cold. My crotch and nothing else was warm. My wetsuit was now soaked in piss. Good thing it was a rental.

That’s what culture shock is like to me and what I’ve been experiencing the past few weeks. At first, I was bobbing around having a great time not knowing what was about to hit me. Now I am, in a metaphorical sense, pissing myself to keep warm (sane).


My emotions have bimodal distribution. 


Before I go on; Korea is great. I love teaching (Mom just got excited). But I would be lying if I said it’s been an easy time. Ever since the one month mark, I have had to go to the hospital every three weeks. First, a nasty cold, then an even nastier stomach bug. Now I sprained my ankle. It’s not a bad sprain but, like, give me a fucking break. My blog is turning into a medical show without the sex.

This and the tiniest, most minuscule events where I say “What the fuck?!” I have to brush it off as cultural differences and going on with my day. It starts to build. A simple event like buying some fruit turns into a thing I write a whole blog post about. I bought tomatoes from an ajumma off the street the other day. She thanked me by shaking my right titty. Yes, you read that correct. An old Korean woman grabbed my breast.

Do you know how distressing it is to have a tiny thing happen to you and think “Oh this should go on my blog!” I have to filter so many shitty, unfunny ideas. It’s exhausting.

That’s my life in Korea. Going to the hospital and getting fondled by the elderly. All whilst not knowing what’s going on. If it were one or the other, I would have finally finished my ‘Top 5 reasons blogs are the worst’ post. Instead, I wrote this one.
Alas, here I am, and here I remain for the next nine months.

One thought on “Culture seep

  1. Hello Caitlin I have only read about cultural shock… never experienced it. Your wet suit metaphor makes sense. I am glad you are able to keep going to overcome the fears and frustrations you face daily. I am so proud of you… that you keep doing your best. You keep your sense of humor…. and sense of self. I marvel at your resilience and think how all these foreign experiences are helping create a strong, confident grown-up you! Hopefully, no more medical experiences! Just getting to know and appreciate a beautiful country filled with very lovely, but so very different people and customs. I love you so much, miss you tremendously, and am extremely proud of you! Momfasa



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