As the saying goes, time does really fly, and it’s hard to imagine that there’s only about 7 weeks left of my exchange semester. It has also been a while again, since I’ve posted anything, so it’s a good time for an update. I’d rather not write a report, which I’ll have to do unless my blog is sufficient. 🙂 And there’s also a valid reason, why I haven’t posted anything for a while, so let’s get over with the bad news first.
An Exhausting Month
Last month, I noticed I was feeling tired all the time and exhausted no matter how much I sleep. I already felt that way on a smaller scale a few weeks earlie, but last month I could really tell something was wrong. My emotions varied from anxiety to sadness and irritation and every obstacle I faced seemed larger than they actually were. Also I felt like I didn’t get satisfaction from the moments and things I normally would and even my concentration seemed to be off and my thoughts wondered a lot. In a nutshell, I was stressing out a lot, but couldn’t really pinpoint the reason…
There are plenty of things in life that could cause these symptoms, for example work overload or even a bad diet, just to name a few. While I admit the latter hasn’t been exactly optimal, the emotional rollercoaster got me thinking that there had to be other reason as well. After all, I should be having the time of my life right now, and frankly, everything is going great. I love the city and the country, I have made new friends and met a lot of super-friendly people and had a great time overall.
Because of my position of an exchange tutor during the last semester, I’m familiar with the concept of cultural adjustment and the effects of culture shock, which I apparently went through. It seems a little bit odd and recognizing the symptoms took some time, because I thought it was unlikely that I would experience a culture shock during my exchange. After all the culture here isn’t that far away from the culture of Finland.
In my mind culture shock meant the clash of cultural differences and the trouble of understanding and accepting the differences. The more different your culture is from culture of the country you are living in, the more likely you are to experience a culture shock. While all this may be true, the culture shock doesn’t really depend on how large the cultural differences are, but is more about the changes in live. And a change – even a positive one – is stressful and requires a lot of adjustment.
Culture shock affects different people in different ways. Some may start partying a lot trying to avoid their emotions, others isolate themselves from the outside world and of course some people don’t experience it at all. I think I’m something in between, but more of the isolate type. When you feel like shit about everything and especially about yourself and even the tiniest tasks require a huge amount of effort, you don’t really feel like socializing a lot. Of course I didn’t just stay in home all the time and I had good days as well. But still, most of the time everything felt at least 10-times more exhausting and waking up seemed to be one of the most difficult tasks in the world.
I’m happy to tell, that by the end of April I was (and still am) feeling much better and everyday life feels normal. There were several thing that helped me get through. First of all, realizing the cause of the symptoms and knowing it will pass was a big relief. Instead blaming myself for being so down and not getting anything done, I now understood the reasons for it and simply started being nicer to myself. Secondly talking about the feelings with my friends helped. This of course is not surprising, but if you are anything like me, talking about your feelings is easier said than done. The last thing I did, was to start focusing and enjoying the small things I still could do instead focusing on the things I was failing at or couldn’t get done.
It’s good to point out, that although I’m feeling better now, the bad feelings may still come up occasionally. Cultural adjustment is often described with the so called curve-model. First you have the honeymoon phase when everything feels great and so much better than back home. After that things start to slowly go down and you hit the transition period with the culture shock and after hitting the rock-bottom you begin steadily recover and finally adapt to your new surroundings. The phases make sense, but the curve is just too simple and linear. Most people will experience ups and downs all the way during the adjustment and the shock symptoms may come back at any given moment. Also, not everyone experiences the honeymoon phase. We’ll see how things will go from now on in my case, but at least now I’m better prepared if the shock decides to strike again. And honestly, at the moment I’m doing just fine so there’s nothing to worry about. 🙂
And then to other news…
While May day isn’t celebrated in the Netherlands, around the same time on 27th of April there is another great party called King’s Day (used to be Queen’s day, but now there’s a king so it’s King’s day). If you are ever coming to Amsterdam, I’d say come in April to see the day. There’s music everywhere, the streets are super crowded and everyone is on a good mood and wears something orange (color of the royal family). It is definitely one of the best festivals I’ve ever been at and I’m considering coming back next year as well.
I’m pretty sure there would have been just as big party here, if Ajax had won the UEFA Champions League, but unfortunately they lost in semi-finals when Tottenham Hotspur scored in the last minute of the overtime… Such a bad luck for such a good team. Anyway, they played a great tournament so the players can definitely be proud of themselves. And talking about Ajax, I recently visited the their home stadium called Johan Cruijff arena, which was a sight to see (check out the header image of this post).
There have been so many great moments and experiences that writing about all of them would require a few blog posts more. For example I’ve got to see some great live music (including my favorite indie rock band the Jungle Giants) and visited the beautiful city of Haarlem. So like I said, although there were some exhausting times, there has been very good days as well and I’m sure there’s still many great days to come before the semester ends.
Until next time, cheers!