samedi 5 mars 2011

On Being an expat, culture shock and making friends

On Being an Expat, Culture Shock and making friends, Dream Analysis and Being Extraordinary

This morning I had an incredible dream. I so rarely have dreams these days and this one was so good I had to write it all down as soon as I woke up before it rapidly faded out of my memory.

Whenever I have really interesting dreams I write them down and then look up all the 'symbols' on Dream moods and various other websites. And EVERY TIME, without fail, after I look it up, everything just makes sense. It's so eerie. I know exactly what the symbols are referring to: thoughts, aspirations, fears, etc etc. You should try it sometime!

My Dream 

To summarise... It started off with me being in a smallish but busy airport and then eventually I got on a plane. Things happened in the airport and on the plane. Except being a dream, it wasn't like a normal plane. It was more spacious and the windows were large, like on a bus. I was sitting right at the front, right behind the pilots (there was no wall/door separating the pilots from the passengers, only a large window)... we were flying high up into the sky and I could see snow-capped mountains through the windows...


To see a plane in your dream, may be a pun on someone or something that is "plain". Perhaps the plane refers to a new level.To see a planet in your dream, signifies creativity, exploration, and new adventures. You are trying to align yourself with untapped energies that you never knew you had. 
To see an airplane in your dream, indicates that you will overcome your obstacles and rise to a new level of prominence and status. You may experience a higher consciousness, new-found freedom and greater awareness. Perhaps you need to gain a better perspective or wider view on something. If the airplane is taking off, then it suggests that an idea or plan is about to "take off" and be put into action. It may also represent you need to get away and escape from your daily life.
To dream that you are flying an airplane, suggests that you are in complete control of your destination in life. You are confident and self-assured in your decisions and accomplishments.

This is so accurate and so... hopeful. And it totally makes sense. I find dream analysis extremely accurate, and much better than generalised horoscopes in magazines!

Wikipedia: Stages of Culture Shock

Negotiation Phase
After some time (usually three months but sometimes sooner or later, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. Excitement may eventually give way to new and unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to have unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive of one's cultural sensitivity. Language barrier, stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, food accessibility and quality may heighten the sense of disconnection from the surroundings.
The most important change in the period is communication: those people who are adjusting a new culture would feel lonely and homesick because they must get used to the new environment and meet people with whom they are not familiar every day. The language barrier may become a fiery obstacle in creating new relationships: special attention must be put one's and others' culture-specific body language signs, linguistic faux pas, conversation tone, linguistic nuances and customs, and false friends.
Due to the strain of living in a different country without parental support, several students might develop additional symptoms of loneliness, ultimately affecting the lifestyle as a whole. International students therefore often feel anxious and have a higher pressure in adjusting the new cultures. This is even more valid when the cultural distance is wide, as logical and speech patterns are different and a special emphasis is put on rhetorics.

Well that pretty much describes to a tee what I've been feeling around the 4-5month mark since I arrived. I guess it's all normal but that still doesn't make it any easier... I also realised that travelling doesn't bring me as much joy as it did before simply because nothing is 'foreign' anymore. It's all normal to me now. There is NO language barrier. Buying cheap baguettes and croissants all day long for all my meals seems totally normal, etc...


I have been feeling so down and annoyed about this whole friend-making thing. I'm tired of hearing about reasons and excuses for why it's so hard to make friends. I'm just over it. I have (or thought I had) lots of great friends here but their behaviour is not consistent. I need someone who is consistently nice to me. Not just be nice to me once and then ignore me for 3 months, for example.

I found this discussion Why is it so hard to make friends in Switzerland? and can relate to it all. I think you can pretty much swap 'Switzerland' for France (well, my part of France)! I KNOW my problem is compounded by the fact I'm stuck in a small town and I am sooooooooo over it.

I found this definition of provincial and it describes perfectly this small town attitude that many people here have :

3. having or showing the manners, viewpoints, etc., considered characteristic of unsophisticated inhabitants of a province; rustic; narrow or illiberal; parochial: a provincial point of view.

I need to go to a city where I can be with like-minded people. Open-minded, fun, young, single, successful, high-achieving, creative people. I cannot stand to be stuck around people with no great dreams or ambitions and just going with the status quo. It's driving me nuts!!! These people around me don't want to challenge themselves. They want an 'easy' life and never want to go out of their comfort zone. For the record, I don't think I am 'better' than these people, but just 'different', WAY too different. I've spent my whole life feeling and being 'different' and it's high time I found some of my 'own kind'.

Status Quo
The more things change, the more things stay the same. While there is some truth to this statement, more often things work in a way that allows for very little change. Many people prefer the current state because they don’t like to take risks. They are comfortable with the status quo, or the existing status.

Teachers in France

And all these teachers... they have to pass an extremely competitive entrance exam (CAPES) to become a teacher in the public school system (where they have something like a 10% chance of passing) and then after that, what? They do the same job for the rest of their lives because they want the illusion of 'job security' (which in my opinion doesn't exist in this day and age). Look, there's something very admirable about sticking it out in the same job for 30 or 40 years (and living in the same town/area your whole life) but that's just not me! Others may look down on me for that but that's my personality and I NEED to be around people who think the same way as me. I think that's why I'm so frustrated here. NOBODY thinks the way I do. My aim in life is not to be ordinary but to be extraordinary. If that sounds far-fetched, so be it. I needed my dream to tell me that that's what I want to do and be.

Go check out this book if you agree with my line of thinking that where you live is important:

Who's your city? by Richard Florida

Ciao for now...


OMG I can hardly contain myself. My hands are still shaking. Only 1.5 hours after I posted this post, I got a call... it turned out to be a 1 hour phone interview! (luckily it was in English. I think I would have died if it was in French as I have not prepared myself for that. I mean, phone interviews always catch me off guard). I have only applied for 2 jobs so far and got a rejection letter for one of them and an interview for the second (this) one. That has NEVER happened to me before. It usually takes dozens of applications to score even one interview and certainly a longer time frame. I am feeling good. I am feeling very positive... The lady seemed very nice and it was more like a chat rather than an interview with stupid questions like, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?" She told me what the interview would involve... I am so nervous but so excited at the same time! Wish me luck :)


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