So, I am wondering when the culture shock is going to start. I am wondering when the feeling of dread, longing and utter alienation will start.
I've known a good number of people in my life who are so quiet, so cultured, so generally pleasant, that I am somewhat nervous, because I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. And such is my experience in Taiwan.
There was an intial experience of culture shock merely from being exposed to an entire culture, and not having a filter to judge which parts were relevant to me and which were not. Just as if I didn't know Portland and just started wandering pell-mell through the neighborhoods, I would probably see some strange things, so my first experience in Taiwan, where I didn't know where I was going and rambled pell mell through the residential alley ways, was somewhat shocking.
But once I settled in to my student life, most of my surprises have been pleasant, such as paying the equivalent of 200 US a month for rent on a modern, clean apartment. Or realizing that the restraunts were cheap here, but that supermarkets are mostly for fashionable, upscale purchasing. Or walking into a police station and being greeted with a respectful, casual atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that citrus fruits cost somewhere around a quarter a pound...
Which isn't to say there is not problems here, or things that bother me. This is, after all, a country that only recently joined the first world, which means there are still some problems with poverty. Also, the population density is probably close a 100 times that of my home state, Oregon, which leads me to miss some of the nature I am used to. They also don't have small, pocket sized pencil sharpners in the stores, just bulky, wall mounted ones. There are plenty of things I would prefer differently, but that doesn't translate to culture shock.
Culture shock seems to me to be the feeling of unalterable alienation, an uncrossable gulf between one person and another person, or group of people. It seems to me that it comes from realizing that the identities of the people around you derive from a totally different place. The formation of identiy is a hard thing to describe. It is interesting that one of the best descriptions of culture shock here, comes from liontamer, when she was living in Japan, a culture that bases identity around descent from a mythic ancestor. If I had been in a country like Japan, Israel or England, where this is the main basis for identity, I would perhaps be feeling a greater amount of culture shock.
I hate to contribute to the dimestore philosophizing on Chinese culture, but this is how I understand it: the Chinese seem to like to eat, to sleep, to play, to study, to work, to spend money, to see interesting things, and to enjoy themselves. I like to do the same things. Therefore, although there is a language barrier, and a custom barrier, we can understand each other, even though they have yogurt that is drunk and not eaten.
All of this, of course, sounds like famous last words.