HOW TO: Deal With the Low Point of Culture Shock [Your Advice]

You know what? You are awesome. When I wrote that post about my low point of culture shock, I had no idea what kind of response I would get. It scared me to be that vulnerable and honest, even though I felt it was something I needed to write. But the comments poured in. And the emails. You offered wisdom and advice, and some of you said you've been feeling the same. 

From my heart, thank you.

Lately I often feel so disconnected from "home" and the relationships there, but your kindness reminds me that I have meaningful connections here, and that no matter what, I'm not alone. Your kind words and shared stories have helped me much more than I could say. 

And, many of you said it sounded like more than just culture shock, and how I've been feeling is certainly is more than just that (I often seem to experience more than one thing at a time, annoyingly). But as I've analyzed and separated them out, it was so strange for me to realize that this low point just appeared earlier this year, even though it didn't really a couple years ago when I was dealing with labrynthitis. 

Since I wrote that post I do think things have been looking up a bit (aside from the lack of sleep and having a baby and too much work). Now I only hope I get through winter without being too affected by SAD... 

And I know I still owe some of you an email or comment response. I promise I'm not ignoring anyone; I try to write meaningful responses and I have far too much on my plate at the moment. But please know that I thank you for writing or commenting, and that I will make my best effort to get back to you if I haven't already. 

That said, I'd like to share some of the advice you offered in terms of dealing with culture shock. For anyone reading, not all of it may apply or help you, but there are a lot of good ideas and you might find something that could help in your situation.

From one mom to another, may I recommend that you take up a class or other regularly scheduled event sans baby? I take yoga once a week at the local community center with a bunch of old ladies. There’s not a lot of chatting during class (which is relaxing) and my teacher is extremely soothing (which is even more relaxing). It’s such a minor thing, but having just a little time for myself makes such a big difference. -pnksweater

Maybe you should join some expat groups, or make friends with Japanese moms who have been abroad, who are interested in the US, maybe if you talk to them about home, that will help you feel closer. I know it helped me to talk in my mother tongue to some friends, and I now know I should also have made contact with some kind of group of Japanese people, even if at the moment I hated being around them, loathed to speak the language, in the long run, this is what helps with feeling integrated in the culture.. I know it is SO hard, and the "kawaiii"s and such standardized responses often don't help you to feel the connection on a personal level, but if you stick it out with a group, it will happen after a while. You will start to feel like you belong. - Krisztina Furdui

I do find getting out and doing my own thing is extremely important though. Stuff I do completely by myself which I love doing and has helped immensely. -Rohan

Honey, I've been living in Japan for 23 years, and I'm still in a state of culture shock! I don't think it ever really goes away. I think what you need to ask yourself is, "do the highs outweigh the lows?" and if the answer is no (which it never has been for me) then you need to reconsider, and do it fast while your options are open.
Might I suggest that you are more open about your frame of mind with your Japanese female friends (leaving out the I-hate-Japan-irrationally stuff, they won't get that) and tell them that you miss the level of support that they - and you - would normally expect from having family around. As an example, point out that on significant milestones, such as giving birth, starting school, getting married, etc, most people can count on getting both financial and practical support from their families. However, you have access to none of these things, and it's very hard for you to cope sometimes. My Japanese friends were astonished when I pointed this out to them, it had never occurred to them before. -Miko 

One of the most important things to do is to make friends with other moms in your area, especially young Japanese moms and stay-at-home moms who've had kids, who will have all sorts of information on raising kids in the area, will have up-to-date info and gossip on all the area schools, and know of low cost activities for kids etc. Knowing Japanese really helps but isn't necessary. In Tokyo at least, Jidokan are great (kids centers, usually with weekly activities for each age) then later yochien (pre-school) or hoikuen (day care). We even made some great friends by taking my kid to a local "English Class" for babies. Although it was a little strange to be attending being a native English speaker myself, if you are less comfortable with Japanese that can be a great way to meet local moms are interested in other cultures and/or can speak English. -Almost 4 

 Is a small Asian vacation out of the question? Korea is so close and yet so different from Japan that it's also able to give me perspective, plus you could do all sorts of relaxing things for much cheaper than in Japan.
If a vacation is completely out of the question...massages have been wonderful for me. I have some reoccurring back pain and it helps with that too, but the relaxation aspect of it also means that things that annoy me don't annoy me as much right afterward. Some places take insurance, especially if they're geared toward eliminating pain, but even the relaxation places you can often get coupons for on sites like Hot Pepper Beauty. Other friends like going to onsen and exercise, either group or individual. -Maha 

For me, visiting HOME (The U.S.) regularly (2X/yr) has been a huge help. Now, going back and forth, it's just life: not life in Japan or life in the U.S., just life. It's taken a while - been here 22 years. I know it doesn't help to hear anyone say it, but ride it out. Maybe also helpful to look carefully at which "problem areas" are Japan-related and which might be something else, then look at which things can be "fixed" and which things need to get accepted or worked around. -tonyinosaka 


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