Culture Burnout

By Carrie Jones and Rachel Middagh

You’ve been in Shanghai for a while now, and the culture shock has passed. You don’t have to gird yourself for a trip to the grocery store, and you can just zone out like everyone else on the metro. But lately, something else has crept into that space where culture shock used to roost: something like irritation and exhaustion all rolled up together. Everything about this place is just getting your goat.You might have a case of ‘culture burnout’. Here’s how to cool things off:

  • Remember what brought you here Was it an adventure, an opportunity, a mission? Some expats come just for jobs, but many have deeper, more personal reasons that lead them abroad or at least contribute to the decision to come.
  • Change your routine. Maybe you are just sick of the same old, same old and not Shanghai in particular. Try a new hobby or activity; visit a place you’ve never been; enroll in a class or a program.
  • Remember the good times.Pull out the photo album or your journal and see how you have enjoyed it here and grown. Remind yourself that there is more to come.
  • See the sunny side. When you find yourself having a “Bad China Day”, think about what a great post it would make on your favorite social network site. Or, start mentally composing an e-mail home with all the unbelievable details. Take a step back and see the humor in your cross-cultural stumbles and bumbles.
  • Seek supportive, positive friends.It’s important to have friends with whom you can openly and honestly share your feelings. But if you find yourself a part of a group who regularly complain about life in Shanghai, itwon’t improve your mindset and will only serve to feed your frustrations.
  • Get away. Maybe your irritation with Shanghai is a symptom of your own exhaustion. It takes a certain energy and focus to live life in a foreign country, whether you are working or managing the household. A vacation may be what you need to get away and rest from the daily demands of a busy life abroad.
  • Consider seeing a counselor. Counselors who specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy can help identify and change any unhealthy or distorted thought patterns. They can also help address other issues that may be affecting you and contributing to your discontent.
  • Time to go. Finally, it may be appropriate (but only as a last resort) to consider whether it is time to end the China chapter in your life and begin a new one elsewhere. A counselor can help you work through this decision in a safe, reasonable environment.

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