Culture SHOCK!

Was reading a simplified article about experiencing culture shock here. It basically simplifies the term ‘culture shock’ coined by by Kalvero Oberg. In his research Oberg classified the immigration phenomena into 5 distinct stages of culture shock.

**italics are my experiences**

** BOLD are the 5 stages that Oberg identified**


1) Honeymoon phrase

– You just came and everything is super awesome! American junk food, American TV, super fast internet! 

– amazon! best invention ever!

– pizza by the slice! awesome!

– outlet shopping FTW!!!!

– The 4 seasons rock, I love having different clothes for different seasons

– New York is amazing! Never in my life would I think that I am living in an apartment overlooking the Hudson River staring at the statue of liberty! 

– I cannot wait to explore the rest of the United States!

– Central Park! Ohhhhh so romantic. It’s so oppressively hot in Singapore I never sit in parks. Oooohh Prospect park, so nice! Little babies and dogs all running around! 

– I love autumn and the pretty leaves! I don’t get that in Singapore

2) Rejection phrase (my current phase)

Why is the bloody USA still using the damn imperial system! Every civilized country in this world uses the metric system! C’mon get a move on! 

– I refuse to pay 4 times the mobile carrier fees for 1/4 the service I used to get in Singapore.

– Why don’t they understand me when I ask where’s the toilet!

– Why do they all spell without a ‘U’

– Its pronounced ‘Zag’ not Zeeeee. 

– Its spelt with a ‘S’ not a ‘Z’, you mean you went to NYU without learning how to spell!!!!!!

Why do they spend 6 million on presidential elections? It’s so damn ridiculous!

– Why do they drink so much? 

– Winter sucks! I miss the heat

– There are NO HURRICANES in Singapore!

– The income inequality in the USA makes me want to BARF!

– A one bedroom apartment in Manhattan costs at 2 million? Why did we move here again? Wasn’t it to avoid buying a 1 million dollar condo (2 bedrooms) in Singapore? 

3) Regression phrase

4) Recovery phrase

5) Reverse culture shock phrase (If I move back to Singapore) 



I exaggerate a little and dramatize a little, but sometimes I really feel exasperated in this new place. It’s a city technically like the one I grew up in! So why is it so different all at once??

Kris says that he felt the same way about Singapore too. My long-standing argument is that after 2-3 years, he was STILL in stage 2 and offered me an option to move somewhere else. I feel like I took it without much careful thought. (I don’t regret it tho)

Anyways, eventually (and I stress EVENTUALLY because it takes so goddamn long to get a visa, even without being thoroughly screwed over by an incompetent piece of crap lawyer) I’ll get a conditional green card for 2 years and then we’ll decide if Singapore or America is where we want to end up.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not dislike this place , but I’m in stage 2 and sometimes its hard. I miss home, my family, friends, my oh-so-adorable-nephew and the familiarity of home. This long and excruciating visa process has not made it easier either, till I get my GREEN card, which is probably around October 2013. I would have endured a 1.5 years waiting period, in the grand scheme of things might not be much, but sometimes, it feels like eternity to me. When people tell me I’m so lucky that I get to do nothing, I sometimes feel like slapping their faces because there is nothing lucky about having your life put at a standstill because the stupid government agencies are so incompetent. There is nothing lucky about being a parasite and not actually working! I’m not sure why I’m so obsessed with work, I highly suspect that it’s the indoctrination that I have been brainwashed into.

My culture believes in the important of hard work and getting a degree and getting an awesome job, then raising awesome kids and growing old awesomely. All done while you become a digit in the work place all for the ‘progress of the nation’. (I’m being sarcastic  just in case my brand of humor doesn’t sit well with you)

I do not slap their faces in the end because its socially unacceptable :P, but more importantly I know that what they say is true. After all, you look at a glass half full or empty depending on what you choose to focus on.

All things considered, I know I’m very lucky. We’re able to fly back and forth a lot, true it might be financially taxing, but at least I’m offered a choice. I/We have saved enough/are earning enough for me to be not working for almost 1.5 years and be financially okay.

I literally can do whatever I want, when I want to. I got to spend 2.5 months seeing my nephew every single day and watching him grow from a little sleeping peanut to one that gurgles and smiles and grabs my finger with his teeny wheeny hands and holds his neck up during tummy time. (EXCUSE ME while I have a PROUD AUNTIE moment!). Because of this long wait, I get time to take a break, watch beautiful sunsets, read, walk, breathe and enjoy all that life has to offer. I don’t have a stable nesting ground in 1 place, but at least I have the generosity of family in Singapore to let me stay for as long as I need too. If you look at the cup half full, you will realize that hey, I don’t pay rent in the 2 most expensive cities in the world and I am able to live in 2 very shiny buildings as a fully welcomed house guest! hee hee.

Honestly, has been a difficult time for our relationship, not so much that we argued a lot but rather having to deal with missing each other a lot. Some couples can spend extended periods of time apart, but it was hard for us. But now, we’re really close to the finishing line and I know this experience has deepened our love for each other. I would love to say that it has made me  even more sure of Kris, but realistically I was already very sure of him the moment I said yes to his proposal. I think when you agree to marry someone, you MUST and most certainty be sure that he/she is the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. I can say with all the conviction that there is nobody else in the world, I would go through this process with (again if I had to) except for Kris. I love him very much and I know we’ll be very happy together for the rest of our lives! Doesn’t matter what city we’re in!

I’ve droned on for quite a bit, but Paul Watkins in ‘Stand Before Your God’ somewhat echoes how I feel about this process:

 “Sometimes I felt sorry for myself, with this feeling of no solid ground that I could say belonged to me. But other times I was glad, because I got to see both countries for what they really were. You had to go away from a place to know what it was you took for granted in the land you left behind.”

It has been difficult at times, but if I went back to Jan 2012, I would still make the same choice, after all as Theodore Roosevelt puts it succinctly, ‘

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge