The Seasons of Culture Shock

Today we woke up to the first really dark, wet, gray, cool morning in Portland in a while. Days like this don’t stop me and my friends from exercising outside. We’re native Oregonians and we know how to layer our fleece and waterproof shells to stay warm and dry, even in the worst weather. We just pull out the rain gear and hats and step outside. In fact, we actually like working out in the rain.

Call us crazy. Lots of people do.

Especially people who move here from other parts of the world where the sun shines most of the time. For them, the shock of moving to a new country and adjusting to a new culture, is compounded in Oregon by the slow realization sometime in October or November that the dark, gray clouds are here to stay for a while. By December everyone is going to work in the morning in the dark, and returning home after work in the dark — even if they leave the office at 5:00 pm! A perfect recipe for magnifying the low end of the mood swings that come along with culture shock.

Unfortunately, we can’t change the weather, but we can plan for it and minimize some of the negative effects. Some strategies that have helped my international students and clients adjust and get through the long Oregon winters (which, by the way, include the late Fall and often the entire Spring seasons) include daily doses of:

  • Exercise: they join a gym, play on a sports team, sign up for classes, take a walk. Doing some kind of physical activity every day helps to distract them from the weather and makes them feel more energized.
  • Fresh air: even on the darkest days, they bundle up and get outside during the middle of the day. The sun may not be shining, but the fresh air can still lift spirits.
  • Friends and family: they plan activities with new friends and stay in touch with friends and family back home through Facebook, Skype, or e-mail. They focus on their relationships and not on the weather.
  • Adventure: they get out and explore their new surroundings. They plan activities for the evenings and weekends and try new things like hiking, snowboarding, playing golf or attending an American football or NBA basketball game.
  • Clothing: they discover that the key to staying warm and dry in Oregon is layers! They invest in a few items of clothing that can be worn together or separately as the weather changes, which makes them feel more confident about getting outside and exploring.
  • Indoor activities: sometimes when the weather is nasty outside the best way to pass the time is with a fun indoor activity. They make plans to see new movies and plays in theaters, host dinner parties at home or spend the evening in a restaurant or pub with friends.

Sometimes they even get a little crazy and start to like going out in the rain!










  1. Gilles Jersey says:

    Hmmmm, Ann Marie;
    We may want to consider moving to the Northwest at some point. is this an invitation, or a warning? Or both! A warning invitation! Bises!

  2. Ann Marie Lei says:

    Gilles—we would love to have you in the Pacific Northwest, but this is a bit of a warning invitation :-)! AM

  3. Hi Ann Marie,
    I really liked reading your Sept. 26th post “The Seasons of Culture Shock.” As I read it really opened my mind to the idea that I truly have no excuses of “Not Exercising” due to weather conditions. I frequently make that excuse as here in the desert where I live, it is either super hot or super cold. I have made this excuse long enough. Because of this post, I am going to make it a point to change the mind so that I can change the body! Thanks, Stacy from Hesperia, Calif.

  4. Tracey Leong says:

    I have family in Tacoma, Washington and I stayed with them for about a month one year in the middle of winter. Im from California where its pretty temperate all year around. We have cold rainy days occasionaly but the sun always at least makes an appearance. The first two weeks I was there I was cold and miserableand I just wanted to sit by the fire and mope. Finally my sister drug me out of the house and made me go for a walk through the forest. Just going outside helped me get over the weather and I enjoyed the rest of my vacation after that. Your post reminded me of that trip and i just wish i realized how easy it was to get over the weather diffrences earlier in the trip. I really enjoyed your post, Tracey Leong from Phelan, CA.

  5. Janene Vitro says:

    Hi Ann Marie –
    Thanks so much for sharing your information with us folks who happen to be from the “sunny state” (California). I had visited a cousin in Klamath Falls for the first time several years ago. I absolutely loved the scenery, however, the whole time I was there it was overcast and raining….as a matter of fact it never stopped. However, I did notice some of the things you mentioned like working out in the incliment weather (my cousin is a runner)and frequent gatherings of friends. My cousin had told me of high incidents of depression and suicide because of the weather and the precautions they take to avoid it happening to them. Thanks, again for sharing your info – it is valuable. Janene Vitro from Apple Valley, CA

  6. Janene + Tracey + Stacy,
    Thanks for your comments. It’s nice to hear that this post was helpful to you. Right now we’re enjoying some rare sunny winter days in Oregon and really appreciating the break from the rain!

  7. Stacey Herrera says:

    Hi Ann Marie,
    I really enjoyed your bog post on culture shock. I enjoy hearing about how other people can embrace the weather to excercise. I have always been active since I was a kid.I started really working out with who is now my husband about 3yrs ago when he was preparing for the Military. We would run everyday no matter what sometimes twice a day. I still like as often as I can. I agree with you when you say the weather isn’t a problem when you know how to dress appropriately. I find excercising soothing especially during depressing weather. – Stacey from the High Desert

  8. Hi Ann Marie,
    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your blog about moving to a new state and having to go through a cultural shock. The reason is because when I was younger we did a lot of moving around and therefore the hardest part to deal with was adjusting to the new culture you live in; especially when it is a state to state move. You always are forced to deal with new obstacles with weather being one of them. I remember when I was 8 we moved from Laughlin, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah were it snows half the year. So to go from a city where the temperatures reach the highs of 120 degrees to a city that reaches the low twenties is a huge change. So I can really relate to your store because there are good ideas and tasks to help someone adjust to a cultural shock.

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