Weekly Reflection: Culture shock

It has been awhile between posts.

I would like to say that I was busy having a fabulous time living the exotic life of an international teacher. In reality, I found myself with a bad case of culture shock.

As a veteran of 4 years teaching English in Korea, I am no stranger to culture shock. The difference this time was how gradually it all snuck up on me.

From day one Korea put up a fight. My first trip to a Korean supermarket I ended buying what I thought was water which instead was the local paint thinner liquor soju.

Ten years later, I arrived in Singapore confident in my abilities to adapt. Yes the weather would be hotter, but teaching in a western school in a country where English is widely spoken didn’t seem like such a huge transition.

I could buy weetbix at my local supermarket.

This transition was going to be easy.

And it was until the last few weeks of term.

I hadn’t realized how to finish a school year, move countries then restart teaching several weeks later. My batteries weren’t fully recharged and teaching is a punishing profession at the best of times.

The fourth term included camp, production, writing reports and preparing my class for something my school does called a mini exhibition. I also found and moved into a new apartment.

I was busy but forever felt like the various balls I had up in the air were crashing down around me.

Small things, like not being able to find an ATM to get cash out (unlike New Zealand Singaporean banks don’t talk to each other) resulted into public meltdowns into misery.

It felt so wrong saying goodbye to my class in June. The weather hadn’t changed temperature, there were no Christmas decorations up. It didn’t feel like the end if the year. My class worked hard right up until their end of year party where in the past I might have slowed down.

Despite my best efforts to keep a healthy lifestyle, learn a new hobby, make friends outside of school, I was stuck firmly in the negotiation phase.

As a result, I stopped blogging.

This post is an attempt to at least get back into the habit of writing regularly again.

Hopefully it is like riding a bike.

7 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: Culture shock

Add yours

  1. I hope you’re able to get back into blogging again. I really enjoy reading your reflections, and I’d love to hear about teaching and living in Singapore.


  2. It’s hard dealing with a stressful job like teaching when there’s nothing familiar to anchor yourself to. Sounds like it’s been a tough stretch. Hang in there Steph, have a restful holiday and don’t beat yourself up over it! Maybe you need to have the long game with this, and think about how future-you (and your future classes) will benefit from the lessons you’ve learned over the past few months. Kia kaha! Take care 🙂


    1. Thanks Lucy – I’ve learned culture shock is something the kids, their families and fellow teachers all wrestle with from time to time in international schools.


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