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Sunday, September 19

A Few Things To Watch To Ease Culture Shock

Expat experiences are different all around the world. But if there’s one thing most expats share in one way or another, it’s the occasional challenge of culture shock. As we stated in our ‘12 Things to Know Before Moving Abroad’, this is true even for regular travelers. There’s just something different about living abroad for an extended period of time, and no matter how excited you are, or how “up for it” you might be, there will come a point at which you feel out of place and long for home.

One thing to keep in mind is that this shouldn’t be looked at entirely as a negative thing. Culture shock can be uncomfortable, to the point that it even makes you seriously question why you got yourself into a life-abroad situation in the first place. But it’s also a sign that you’ve truly stepped outside of your comfort zone, and that’s viewed as a good thing! As Huffpost.com enumerates through several specific points, getting outside your comfort zone essentially helps you to grow — becoming more creative and open-minded, confronting new challenges, and so on. A little bit of culture shock is typically well worth it.

As much as that may be the case though, it doesn’t necessarily make culture shock any more comfortable. It can be quite jarring, and sometimes all you want to do is immerse yourself in a taste of home to numb the shock a little bit. Overall we suggest immersing yourself in the culture instead. But if you’re living abroad, that’s going to happen in time anyway. If you just need a little bit of relief, it can help to have a plan for how to transport yourself home.

That could be anything from a video chat with a family member, to a look through some photos, to reading a few chapters of a book set near home. But today, thanks to the virtually unlimited online streaming options we can all gain access to, getting a taste of home can also be as easy as turning on the right show or film. So we figured it might be helpful to suggest a few programs to have on your streaming list that can transport you right back to the U.S.

Friends

Friends is just difficult to top if you’re looking for some iconic American material to dive into. Sure, it’s a pretty unrealistic America in a lot of ways, but Friends nevertheless represents a sort of carefree, idealistic attitude that represents a certain time period in the U.S. Plus, for a lot of people, it will simply be a personal comfort! Millions grew up on Friends and still adore it today — to the point that The Economist listed it just two years ago as (still) being the world’s favorite sitcom.

Parks & Recreation

If you’re looking for something a little more modern, or perhaps if you’re a little younger, Parks And Recreation is another terrific option for easing the burden of culture shock. In part this is because it accomplishes what Friends does, portraying the sunny side of American culture — in this case with a sort of happy-go-lucky take on average people in middle America (rather than mysteriously well-off young adults in Manhattan). More important than any sort of tie to your home culture though, you may find Parks And Recreation helpful because it’s just so incredibly pleasant.

The Last Dance

A documentary can certainly do the trick as well, and one of the best ones we’ve seen in recent years is The Last Dance. This is ESPN’s stunningly in-depth look at NBA legend Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls teams he led, and it’s absolutely steeped in U.S. culture and history of the ‘90s. For those who were alive at the time and followed Jordan’s career, the docu-series offers enough nostalgia to make you forget all about culture shock. Even for those who weren’t paying attention or don’t much follow the NBA though, it’s a wonderfully immersive look back at a chapter of U.S. sports history.

Summer Baseball

Sticking with sports, what’s a better taste of America than a baseball game? The game known as “America’s pastime” is on TV on a daily and nightly basis for about six months of the year, which makes it a pretty accessible cure for culture shock. Granted, if you have no interest baseball can be a little bit slow or uninteresting, so if that’s you we’d simply refer you back to our other suggestions. But for those who enjoy baseball or just like watching sports in general, we’d stress baseball as an excellent option. Very few things will feel quite as much like teleporting home for a few hours as streaming a good baseball game.

Summer Poker Tournaments

Poker itself is not exclusively an American activity by any means. And yet, an entire generation of Americans did grow up seeing it on TV all the time, with most of the noteworthy competitors and tournaments representing the U.S. For a while there pro poker felt like a staple of the summer sports and culture calendar in the states, and so revisiting it while abroad can be oddly comforting. And while the pro poker circuit was largely interrupted in 2020 due to COVID-19, Poker.org reports that a number of the biggest American poker tournaments are back on schedule. Many of these can be streamed remotely, giving expats a fun way to connect with some live entertainment back home.

Top Gun

Last but not least we’d recommend Top Chef. Over the years this has become one of the most beloved reality TV shows in the U.S., and arguably more than any of the material suggested above it really showcases American culture. Each season (and you can binge them all online) delves into the cuisine and personality of a different city. At the same time though, Top Chef is also increasingly about embracing multiculturalism through food. So, while it functions as a TV tour of America in a really wonderful way, it also puts you in the mood to try new things. It may just comfort you with a taste of home and put you back in the mood to get out and explore your new home all at once.

Top Chef

Last but not least we’d recommend Top Chef. Over the years this has become one of the most beloved reality TV shows in the U.S., and arguably more than any of the material suggested above it really showcases American culture. Each season (and you can binge them all online) delves into the cuisine and personality of a different city. At the same time though, Top Chef is also increasingly about embracing multiculturalism through food. So, while it functions as a TV tour of America in a really wonderful way, it also puts you in the mood to try new things. It may just comfort you with a taste of home and put you back in the mood to get out and explore your new home all at once.



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