Cultural challenges will happen whilst you’re abroad, you will get lost, something in your apartment will break, or someone will laugh at you for pronouncing something wrong in another language.
Figuring things out in another country can be very difficult. Obstacles will arise that you wouldn’t ever think of. How do you deal with cultural challenges?
Three examples come immediately to my mind; the time I didn’t have water for a week, the time I accidentally asked someone to kiss me, and the time I couldn’t figure out how to download a vital program on my computer. And the multiple, perpetual action of getting hopelessly lost.
Cultural challenge #1
One night I came home to find there was no water in my apartment. I didn’t know why and I didn’t know when it would be fixed. There would be no way of finding this information out, either. Until then, I learned you can rent a hotel room for a couple hours for ‘special occasions’ and I can fill up a bucket, ration the cold water, and what a ‘wasteland shower’ was.
Cultural challenge #2
Another time, I thought I had learned a word in Chinese and tried to say it to someone. It turns out, it sounds a lot like, “Kiss me.” The reply was a stunned face and, “Kiss you?” With some additional laughter from Taiwanese friends in the background.
Cultural challenge #3
And finally, most of the default pages, advertisements, and websites will show up in Chinese because you now have a Taiwan IP address. It can be a little startling at first, but there are many workarounds, (why you would want to get rid of these amazing advertisements, I do not know).
The default page for a program I needed on my computer was in Chinese. After I figured out how to purchase it in English, it would kill my internet halfway through the download. I had to restart my computer but when I tried to download it again, it said the program was already being downloaded. I had to run a kill-fix and try to download it again only to encounter the same obstacle.
Dealing with cultural challenges
Point is, very surprising challenges will inevitably appear in your adventure abroad. When these obstacles occur it is important to keep calm. It’s very easy to get frustrated, annoyed, angry or freaked out when things like this happen. Here are the steps I take when I encounter an obstacle or challenge now:
1. Breakdown the challenge
2. Solve small parts on my own, if possible
3. Ask about anything I may have trouble with
4. Ask for words that may help in Chinese, (or note my survival mandarin guide)
5. Allow extra time!
Example: Filing your Taxes
One challenge that every teacher abroad will have to face at some point are the dreaded taxes. Everyone will have to file their taxes in Taiwan and it sounds terrifying, right? Here are the steps I took for breaking it down and getting through it:
1. Receiving the forms.
I receive the forms from the school, it’s important to check if it will be a W2? Or will it be in Chinese? I also found out when would receive my forms, it’s always good to ask.
2. Is there a chance you can get a refund on your apartment?
You might want to find this out. Maybe ask a friend to translate with your landlord or it might be in your lease. You will need to save your receipts from your rent payment but receipts from a 711 money transfer will not cut it.
Your landlord will have to give you receipts that the money transferred is specifically for your rent payment. The refund is pretty minimal, decide if it’s worth the additional time.
3. Make copies.
It is always a good idea to copy your forms for your personal file. You can use a copy machine in any 7/11 or Family Mart, or you can ask your school.
4. Knowing where to file your taxes is important.
I asked my school manager, (turns out, she didn’t know) so Google became my friend. Plan C always consists of me wandering into what I think is the right place and looking lost. In Taiwan, people will try to help you.
In this case, they pointed me to the Ministry of Finance across the street from Beimen Station. As is custom, I got lost on the way (it is literally across the street) I walked the completely wrong direction and took a taxi who turned me around and charged me 80NT.
5. Getting the refund.
Refunds take a while to process here. Will you be here when yours arrives? If you aren’t going to be here then you can designate an agent, perhaps a work colleague or a friend.
Both parties will be informed when your refund is processed, your agent will collect it for you and they will have to either wire it or send a check. You will need your agents name, address, phone number, and ID. The agent will need a copy of your passport.
Challenges Vs the experience
One of the reasons I moved abroad was to experience life in another culture, this meant all the challenges and tribulations as well. The challenges of living abroad have been vast, different, and always pretty amusing to me.
I know how to order food in America, I have a car, I have a phone. But here in Taiwan, everything is new to me. There have been so many things I never expected to encounter happen and I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn from these challenges.
I’m sure everybody encounters various challenges no matter where they live, but as for me, I wouldn’t want to be without these cultural challenges.
How about you, have you come across many cultural challenges in your time abroad? How have you overcome these? Let us know in the comments section below.