Anytime you're away from home, especially somewhere far away like China, Culture Shock will get you one way or another. You could miss hearing your native language, eating favorite foods, not seeing old friends and family so often, or the familiar routines and predictability of your home country.
I missed a lot of small things: my coffeemaker beeping at me in the morning to signal a hot cup was waiting for me, the smell of pine trees, making a quick trip to the store and even the freedom to drive anywhere I wanted to at anytime and different weather...I'm a Californian, so no easy public transportation or truly frigid weather here . It was a big change to go to all public transportation all the time, even if it was easy most of the time and I had to learn how to dress for the cold.
What can you do to zap Culture Shock?
Here's some info to keep in mind...
Expect Homesickness. Don't let it blind side you. We all the know the saying: "The best offense is a good defense." So, prepare for homesickness before you leave your home country. Accept that you will experience feelings of loneliness, helplessness, frustration, and that you may want to sleep a lot and isolate yourself. Homesickness can mimic many symptoms of depression. Homesickness can come in waves lasting just a few minutes to days on end. Be ready to have less control all the time.
The first 1-3 months in a new country is what I call "the honeymoon period"- everything is so exciting and new, if you're learning Chinese, you enjoy the challenges and can weather the ups and downs with no problems. After "the honeymoon period" comes "The 3 Month Crisis", called this because it hits at 3 months or can last 3 months.
"The 3 Month Crisis" is the perfect storm of homesickness and Culture Shock. Homesickness, getting used to a new culture and language all together can really throw you for a loop. When you're homesick, take extra care of yourself. Go out and meet new people or or compare notes with other expats. You'll feel better knowing you're not the only one who hates China sometimes.
Have an open mind. Allow yourself to experience new points of view and ways of doing things. It's unreasonable to think you an replicate everything about your home country in China. Who knows, maybe you'll actually like doing things a new way.
Be Balanced. Keeping in touch with friends and family back home can be too much of a good thing. If you discover that talking to people back home brings you down instead of making you feel better, it may mean you need to talk with them less often. This isn't a bad thing, it just means that there might be room to make new friends or take up that hobby you've been meaning to.
Be Patient. It takes time to adapt to a new culture and language. There will always be things and processes that are frustrating. Even if you never get completely used to China, it will bother you less later.
Educate Yourself. Learn about China, the people, the food, customs, and what's expected of foreigners. While Chinese people won't expect a foreigner to speak their language fluently, they love it when you try at all. One thing my husband and I did was get a big map of China so we knew all the provinces. When someone would tell us where they were from, we had an idea where they were from and what made their home unique in China. That opened the door to many friendships and positive experiences.
Any other tips or info you can give about surviving Culture Shock?