The true terror of culture shock is that you never really see it coming. You could be fine for weeks, and then, with little warning, suddenly be overwhelmed by the world around you. Or, in my particular case, 24 hours and completely overwhelmed by my surroundings. And I mean overwhelmed.
I have been to China before, and though I did get your standard culture shock experience, it was nowhere near the level that this is. This is the kind of sick that you only get from bad dreams and too much to drink. Something like the experience of all those who took the infamous ‘brown acid’. Your okay, then your not okay, okay, not okay, trying to come back to reality, but never quite finding what you are looking for.
And how could I not be culture shocked? I’m in an unfamiliar place completely on my own, trying to figure out what my next move might be. I was feeling alright from the time I arrived all the way through this morning. I managed to go out, get breakfast, walk around for a while, do some writing. And then, right around lunch, I decided to head out for a walk toward Houhai, a Large lake in central Beijing famed for it’s bars. About half way around the lake, I started to feel a sense of unease, one that I attributed to a lack of water. As I walked, the feeling grew and grew, a nagging feeling of separation from my surroundings. By the time I got back to the hostel, I had to get in to my bed and just go to sleep until this evening. Sometimes it’s the best thing to do.
Bad culture shock can make you feel physically sick, can make you feel like you have lost your mind. I’m doing much better now than I was this afternoon, but that sick feeling still lingers quite strong. I miss my girlfriend immensely, but I called her and couldn’t even put words together. I miss my family too, and though I didn’t need to call them, it’s strange knowing that they are sleeping when I am awake. Jet lag, unfamiliar food, and the pure unadulterated roar that is a Chinese street were just too much for today, but I’ll try again tomorrow. I’m guessing that this feeling will hang on for some time, but you have to take it day by day. Freak out, stop, sip a soda, reboot.