Alien in a Foreign Land

Did you know that culture shock is a real thing? I didn’t. For me, so-called “culture shock” was an excuse that naive people gave to justify sitting alone in their room and write predictable blogs about missing home.

Hello World. I’m Kate and I’m suffering from culture shock.

I’m not joking.

It is a real thing. I read about it on Wikipedia so now I consider myself a world-class expert on the topic. Sarcasm aside, I was certainly very naive to think that moving to a new country was going to be an easy transition. Indeed I’ve never been to America before, but seriously, how different could it be? It’s only across the pond. We (almost) speak the same language. We (almost) eat the same foods. And we all love the British monarchy (minus miserable republicans who don’t appreciate true love. Long Live Will & Kate). Surely that would be enough to guarantee my flawless transition into American culture? Apparently not. Today I had to face reality: I’m an alien in a very foreign land.

Drawing upon very reliable facts extracted from Wikipedia (give me a break, they had references to legitimate research), I discovered that culture shock consists of four stages: (1) Honeymoon; (2) Negotiation; (3) Adjustment; and (4) Mastery. I recently entered the second phase.


After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety.

– Wikipedia, “Culture Shock”

Coincidently I’ve been in America for three months now. HOW PREDICTABLE. I’m a textbook Wikipedia entry.

Prior to this, everything was perfect. A “honeymoon” one might say. America was a novelty; everything was just like the movies. But it was even better because it was all REAL. The fraternities were real. Pop-Tarts were real. Diners were real. All of it. And it was amazing.

But it didn’t last. The Frat boys were obnoxious. My Pop-Tart broke in half inside the toaster. And I realised that I had to choose between a S’mores milkshake or a double stacked bacon ‘n’ cheese steakburger because there’s no way in hell I can finish both. My “American dream” fizzled out, slowly, but surely. And now I’m here – facing reality – in a country where people keep asking me (a) if my accent is real, (b) if I was in Game of Thrones and, (c) if I was invited to Prince George’s christening. It’s terrifying.

So where do I go from here?

I’m still figuring that out. All I know is that this “negotiation” phase requires me to start re-evaluating some of my unfounded and romanticised assumptions. Of course, before I embarked on this journey I should have done some quite crucial transition preparation. But “should’ve’s” are no use to anyone. Especially someone who is freaking out about the very real situation of being so far away from home, while simultaneously trying to fish a Pop-Tart out of the toaster without starting a fire.

Eventually I’ll ask myself the fundamental questions: Where am I? Why am I here? And how am I going to adjust? But for now, I am quite content/overwhelmed with the realisation I made today. That is, I identified that I was in denial. Culture shock exists. The “pond” which separates Britain and America is not a pond at all. And whoever said American culture was not that different from British culture is a liar. Oh, yes, that was me.

I’m Kate and I’m an alien in a foreign land. It took me three months, but I’ve finally admitted it. First step towards “adjustment” – done.


This photo was taken pre-culture shock (I’d only been in America for a week). First of all I’m in a diner. Second of all, I was exposed to American Dining 101: Chips are not chips. Needless to say, I had a pitiful meal. Luckily I ordered a milkshake too, which satisfied my diner experience, and my appetite.

Who am I?

Hi, I’m Kate.

In case the title of this blog was ambiguous, I’m British. This is me.

I like coffee and hot places.
“British?!” I hear you interject. “Aren’t the Brits known for drinking tea and surviving cold, wet weather?” Indeed, you’d be right. That’s why I’m going to stop you right there and clarify that my “Britishness” ends at my accent, and my passport. Coffee in hot places = happy Kate.
It also makes for a much better photo.
This photo, on the other hand, was taken in London during the summer.
If the disgruntled look of distress isn’t clear, I can confirm that this isn’t my happy face. No amount of tea makes up for how I felt at this moment. So if I have to sacrifice good ol’ British tea for hot foreign weather, then get me on the first flight out of here. And that’s where my story begins actually. Albeit, not quite so dramatically. Though, ironically, this photo was taken just before I got my Visa at the American Embassy. It was like Britain’s middle finger response to me leaving the country. But I digress.

So, who am i?

When I named this post, I thought I’d just put together a no-nonsense, impersonal blurb about myself:
i.e. 22 y/o British/Filipolo* female; studying at Grad School in the US; currently coming to terms with the ridiculously huge gaps in bathroom stalls and the size of burritos at Chipotle. 
* The distinctive fusion of Filipino and Polish ethnicities
However, while pondering about how I could introduce myself (without sounding like a lonely, miserable alien who had made a rash decision to move to America, and subsequently document her painfully normal life on the internet), I realized that the question I had given myself wasn’t actually that simple. In fact, “Who am I?” suddenly became the most difficult question in the world. Well, after “Why is that person watching me through the gap in my toilet cubicle?” and “What is cilantro and why won’t you accept that I don’t want it on my burrito?” Once again, I digress.


Sorry, but I can’t.
A new country, new surroundings, new cultures, and new communities have thrown that question up in the air and now I find myself embarking on a journey where I’m asking myself that very question.
I’ve been here for three months now, and so it’s time to take a good look at my new environment and document some of my new experiences. And eventually, maybe I’ll start to figure out the question: who am I?
But for now I still want to know why there is so much goddamn cilantro in my burrito.
This whole “find myself” journey thing might take a while.