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  • Ash Watson

10 Ways I Overcame Culture Shock

Updated: Aug 19



I recently discussed my 10 Signs of Culture Shock. It can be a difficult journey to be on, and one that can last for a while. It took me a long time to figure out what I was going through at the time so I have compiled a list of the 10 Ways I Overcame Culture Shock.


1. DON'T BE A STRANGER

It is vital that you don't shut yourself away when you are going through a bout of culture shock. I did exactly that, and it only triggered a downward spiral. The biggest turn around for me was a conversation I had with some very close friends of mine. I explore this notion and detail this difficult time more in my new book BECAUSE JAPAN so be sure to check it out.


2. FOCUS ON HOME COMFORTS

When you are feeling down and distant from the world, it is so important to keep those small home comforts close to you, whether that be your favourite snack, plush, movie or book. For me, it was my favourite book To Kill a Mockingbird. I can open that book and instantly be transported into the fictional town of Maycomb. It's a great temporary escape from reality that I really appreciated during these difficult times.


3. IT IS NORMAL

One very simple but effective thing to note is that culture shock is NORMAL! It may be easier said than done to accept this at the time, but for me it made all the difference in the world to know that I wasn't alone and that others out there could relate to what I was experiencing.


4. ACCEPTANCE

For me, the second all of these awful thoughts and feelings were given a label, something switched in my brain. I then knew what to research and could allow myself the time and peace of mind to accept that things, with a little bit of work, would be better someday soon.


5. FIND WHAT SPARKS JOY

In true Marie Kondo fashion, I began to find comfort in the simple things in life; I stopped using my phone and listening to music and instead picked up my dusty Polaroid camera and snapped up the entire city. I discovered so many beautiful pockets of Tokyo that I had never seen before and I once again began to notice the small details in the daily lives of those around me. I kept a list of 'One thing that makes me smile each day'; whether it be an old couple holding hands, a small child bowing to me in the street or even the way the light fell through the trees to create the beautiful komorebi effect on the floor below.


6. KEEP BUSY

Sitting on my own and stewing in my own thoughts was not the way to move past the feelings I was having, so each day after work and every weekend, I would stick to a strict routine. Running became my new evening activity and I loved every second of it. I would run from park to park, work out on the climbing apparatuses and move onto the next, all the while hatching eggs in Pokemon Go and discovering new routes along the way. This turned out to be great training for my final trip during my time in Japan.


7. WRITE TO YOURSELF

Writing has always been a cathartic and healing process for me, and it's one that I cherish very much. A lifelong friend of mine told me how she would write to herself in times of need so I tested it out one evening and found the results incredible. Instead of writing about all the things that were currently going on in my mind, I wrote to myself as if I were looking back on myself from the future and offered myself advice on what to do next. I gave myself very simple instructions to follow and encouraged myself that everything would be ok; I just had to be a little patient and open-minded. I have found that this technique can be used and adapted to any situation you are going through in life.


8. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS

It is a very British trait to ignore ones accolades and instead focus our shortcomings. So as part of my letter writing to myself, I decided to OWN all of the amazing personal feats I had achieved during my time in Japan. I had experienced so many incredible once in a lifetime things and had ticked so many bucket list entries off my list that it was just so easy for me to forget about it all. Once my attitude about my achievements had changed, I began to look forward to what was coming next.


9. LOOK FORWARD

Looking forward and having something to look forward to is a great way to fuel and carry you through the boring and difficult times in life. If you know you have something fun on the horizon, it adds merit and worth to life, and allows the first important beam of sunlight to penetrate those all-encompassing dark clouds.


10. REWARD YOURSELF

Rewarding yourself for any minor feat is a great way to encourage you to keep moving forward and stop looking back. Booking trips to look forward to, buying that pair of shoes you've had your eye on to wear on a day out with friends or having a cheeky chocolate bar after a long week at work all make the world a difference. Treating yourself also allows you to check in with your mental state and dust off those cobwebs of doubt that have been lingering around for far too long.


For more stories and hilarious anecdotes on my time living in Japan, order your copy of my new book BECAUSE JAPAN NOW!