What You Need To Do When You Experience Culture Shock Teaching Abroad

I was in Indonesia for three months before I realized that I had culture shock.

And the only reason I finally recognized what was happening was because I was coming out of it.

It was while Tugi was driving me through the Jogja countryside that it happened.

I thought how beautiful it was and how much I liked Indonesia and the thought startled me because it made me wonder why I thought I disliked it in the first place.

It was the kind and generous people and the natural beauty of Indonesia that brought me out of the culture shock that I didn’t even know I was in.

To be fair, I had reason to think I disliked Indonesia up to that point.

Acehnese imigrasi had been a pain from day one, the NGO I was working for caused several major shocks to my system – like the dirty environment, the terrible boss, the roaches and rats, and the squat toilets – and my skin colour was an issue for some time before I got myself in hand.

After my baptism by fire in Indonesia, I knew what to look out for with respect to culture shock when I was coming to Yakutsk.

Also, after my experiences in Indonesia, I knew to come with an open mind and no particular expectations.

I’m happy to say that, after more than a month of living in Yakutsk and working for my employer, I am fairly confident that I can report that I’m not suffering from culture shock.


This is due to two factors.

First, I’m comfortable in my living environment. 

My place is in a decent building that is well maintained.

It’s clean and spacious and, most importantly, free of living creatures except for me!

There are no rats, roaches, lizards or any other pests living with me, and I will work hard to keep it that way.

Also, because it started out clean, it’s easy for me to maintain and hasn’t caused me to lose even one night’s sleep.

Second, my company is the bomb, guys.  The.  Absolute.  BOMB. 

They have bent over backwards to ensure that the new international teachers are acclimating and adjusting well to being here.

As I’ve mentioned, they stocked my place with a few necessities to get me started when I arrived (I assume they did the same for everyone; I didn’t ask) and they’ve taken us around the city to get us acquainted with what’s located where.

Every single person in the company has been consistently kind, pleasant and helpful.

Someone made the point to me a couple of weeks ago that even when you know that two of the local team members are clearly close friends, they still comport themselves in such a way that you don’t feel left out.

Speaking on my own behalf, I feel absolutely included in events, conversations and any other relevant thing happening there.

I’ve also mentioned that the organization is properly run.

Every department is organized and professionally managed and every team member knows what their job is and what’s expected of them.

The team is kept informed of the company’s vision and strategic objectives (we’ve had two meetings on this in the month and change that I’ve been here…TWO!).

Issues are handled quickly, professionally and maturely.  And there is a warmth and lack of negativity that permeates every interaction.

When someone is frustrated or exasperated with how something is going, other team members jump in to try and help as soon as they realize what’s going on.

Again, speaking from my own observations, if there’s toxicity in this organization I haven’t seen it yet and I doubt I will because poison usually reveals itself quickly.

On a side note, the thing I find most fascinating about this company is that it’s comprised of ninety-four percent women.  That’s right.

Of the approximately fifty people who work in this organization, only three are men.  Three.  Out of fifty.  And not a hint of snarkiness to be seen.

And, by the way, the three men are teachers.  They’re not the top of the heap, running the company or managing departments.  They’re teachers.

You know how some people, women especially, like to say that they don’t keep female friends and don’t like to work with a lot of women because women are too…whatever, fill in the blank with a negative adjective.

Always in the past when people have said this to me, I’ve said that such assertions were rubbish.

I’ve always felt that these were myths or just foolishness that some idiot woman somewhere started saying and a bunch of other idiot women took up saying it too.

I based my dismissal of this rubbish on the fact that people are people and if you make poor decisions about who you keep as friends or if you work in an unhealthy environment that fosters continued unhealthiness, then you have no basis on which to make this kind of blanket statement.

I’m happy that my rubbishing of this assertion has been proven correct.  This company proves it.

These women are young (the median age seems to be in the late twenties to early thirties), mature, smart, educated, experienced, professional, and committed.  And they all rock in their own way.

Anyway, I’d apologize for getting on my soapbox about this but I’m not sorry.

The point is, due in large part to the efforts and work of this group of women, I’ve settled right into this new chapter of my life with absolutely no hint of trauma from culture shock.

I’m grateful for this blessing and I know it’s not a coincidence.

I will send an angel ahead of you to protect you as you travel and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Exodus 23:20 (GNT)

Amen and thank you, Jesus.


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