Is it TV withdrawal or can I just call it culture shock??


Hello, My name is V and I am suffering from bouts of culture shock. There are days that are fine. But, there are days when it is all too much and I find myself turning to the dark side. Please read my tale as a warning and a plea for help!………………..

It all began in late August this year….

Our adjustment to life on the other side of the globe has been pretty good. Easy even. Familiar food took a little searching out. Clothing in my size has to be made to order. Shoes have to be brought from the US. But pretty much everything else can be found with just a little searching out….Except TV shows. They require a little more work.

There are actually some ways to find familiar TV shows here. You can go down the street to the guy selling pirated copies off the back of his bike for a dollar a CD. Doing this means taking your chances with the quality of the copy and on a rainy cold night do you really want to go back down the street to argue with him that the CD he sold you was crap? Not to mention the legal issues and the language barrier. The second choice is to plan ahead and go across town to a real DVD store that sells movies and shows. But this involves knowing what you will want to watch on Friday when it is only Tuesday morning. It always seems if I want to watch a mystery on Friday I will have picked a comedy on Tuesday and be stuck.

I thought I had the system beat when I got a VPN. Theoretically you can get to any web site and get any video or show to watch, even Netflix! I hadn’t used the VPN to watch any streaming video but was looking forward to it when I had some free time.

So there I was, Friday night and Hubby was out of town, D was at a late night school event, and S2 and I were hanging out at home. S2 entrenched himself with online games and skyping with friends. I had run out of books to read and planned on getting to the library next week. It was the kind of night you want to just mindlessly turn on the TV and let a brainless show like ‘Property Virgins’ from HGTV, or ‘What not to Wear’ just wash over you and waste some of your time. The act of planning ahead or walking down to the guy on the street just wouldn’t fit the night. And besides, he doesn’t even have those kinds of shows.

I gleefully logged onto my computer and started up my VPN. I had previously signed up for HULU and had created a list of favorite shows that were now sitting there, just waiting for me to watch them. I chose Project Runway first. It had been one of my favorites in the US. Everything seemed fine until the video started to buffer. and buffer. and buffer. and buffer. Finally I got a message that the video I wanted to watch was not available. Project Runway is known to be fussy with how it releases video so I assumed that was the case. I moved on to ‘Raising Hope” but the same buffering issue happened. Ok, third time must be a charm. And to avoid any risk of me just picking losers I went to the favorites page and picked a random show. Anything would be better than old chinese soap operas. But the shows still refused to buffer. Then, the ugly truth dawned on me. Even with my VPN the internet is too slow here, making it impossible to stream any but the shortest clips of video. AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!

I went to Plan C:

We do actually have what is called satellite TV. This means we get six Chinese stations, six Japanese stations, one French, one German, CNN world, BBC world, and an asian news station in English. None of these satisfied my need for mindless TV. My last hope was HBO. But alas, it was a slasher film – definitely not my cup of tea. Then I discovered what the kids have probably known since the day we got here….we have Cartoon Network. And it’s even in English πŸ™‚

I turned to the CN in hopes of an old bugs bunny or even a new Adventure Time. All I wanted was a half hour of jello brained TV. I got more than I bargained for. This night on CN featured a Barbie Princess special: Barbie’s Charm school. Barbie’s family is killed in a tragic accident when she is just a baby. She is taken in and loved and raised by a mother who has a biological daughter. As a teenager Barbie wins a scholarship to charm school where they are seeking the next true heir to the land of Gardenia. Spoiler Alert!! It turns out that Barbie is truly princess Sophia and the only true living heir to the land of Gardenia. Barbie and her friends have to battle an evil lady in waiting who is trying to position her daughter to become queen. In the end the truth is revealed and Barbie takes her rightful place as Queen.

And how do I know all this? I actually watched most of it! I can’t believe I did it. It was so poorly animated, such a weak and predictable plot. I am pleading a moment of weakness. Or perhaps more accurately a half hour of weakness. I swear I will never do it again!! lol.

So can I claim culture shock and the need to connect with America? Or is it plain and simple TV deprivation and now you all have seen the true, dark side of my brain – literally. In an attempt to redeem my good standing in your eyes I will tell you that as soon as I saw that Barbie was safely crowned Queen I turned the TV off and went outside for a walk πŸ™‚

The next day we hit the DVD store and stocked up on several seasons of Dr. Who, White Collar, and Burn Notice as well as some classic movies like the original Willie Wonka, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I promise, if I feel overwhelmed by culture shock again I will not take refuge in Barbie cartoons. I will call on you, my dear friends, to keep me sane. You and Willie Wonka.

Epilogue: When I told D that I watched the Barbie show she guffawed so hard she fell off the couch! Then she said: finally the truth about Barbie has been revealed – That she had been traumatized by the accident that killed her family and became anorexic. Then to console herself she got a boob job (D’s words not mine).
Ahhhh, out of the mouths of babes.

11 responses »

  1. Did you bring any DVD’s with you? I am wondering if you can watch US formatted discs there, in England the formatting is different and they don’t work – at least that’s what my Dad says and who am I to argue? It would seem like a relatively inexpensive item to mail, if you can watch them!

    • You are so sweet! We did bring some movies and we can get some here, it’s just a matter of having what you want to watch when you want to watch it! I actually haven’t seen the reality shows i like to indulge in like project runway. If you see that around it would be great! I would take any season πŸ™‚

  2. It just proves that when life hands you Princess Barbie-Sophia, you can create a very entertaining post from the experience. I was imagining this plot animated with SarahPalin Barbie as the lead. Now that gave me a chuckle.

  3. I probably would have done the same thing if the Barbie show was all that was on. Are you able to watch shows on YouTube or is there a buffering issue on that site too? Our problem here is that sometimes when we jump from one YouTube video to the next we have to reboot the whole system!

    • I can get you tube with my VPN. The buffering thing is not about a particular site, it’s just that the internet is generally VERY slow so streaming anything is almost impossible.

  4. Hi crew,
    we fully sympathize with your view on foreign TV and your culture shock connected with it. We had about the same feelings back in 1968, not in China, but in the US, mind you. You were too young to remember us at that time. But we had just arrived and moved into our rented apartment at Cooper Pl., New Haven, CT. The ordinary US TV programs were in our view extremely flat and superficial, overflooded with ads as compared to our German TV, at that time still exclusively public and financed with fees but hardla any ads. It did, perhaps for that reason, present a lot of wonderful cultural, historical, and political features we loved to watch and thus desparately missed in the US. But then we met your parents at Betsy Ross Nursery School. They took us to their home, then still at Fairfield Ave, where they showed us a variety of programs where you could and we would watch “classical” films such as “Gone with the Wind”, “Julius Cesar”, and such like together. During the performance of the latter a snow storm had developed, unnoticed by us. So when we were to go home, we could’t because of some several feet of snow in the streets. So we had to stay overnight with your parents, walk home the next morning, and dig ourselves back into our own apartment. It was not the least occasions like that that made us lifelong friends with your parents which we areconsider to be to this very day. Perhaps similar things already did or will happen to you in China to remember for the rest of your days that may put your recent culture shock into perspective. At least we for our part no longer feel anything close to a culture shock whenever we return the the US for visits; quite on the contrary, we even feel homesick, somehow, if we stay away from New Haven and our friends we’ve made there during our stay for too long.
    Take care for now, love Gunther & family

    • It is always so wonderful to hear from you! I love your stories of when we were all in New Haven together. I was too little to remember the details but old enough to remember very fondly the time we spent together. Having your stories to fill in the gaps in my memory and help me relive those great times is so nice! Please give my love to your whole family.


  5. In what can only be one of the greatest ironically coincidental moments of all time…I’m sitting here reading your blog, with “Sponge Bob” on in the background. As usual, the 10 year old has moved on from morning cartoons to something more interesting and left the TV on. I haven’t had my morning coffee yet, so turning off the TV just doesn’t seem worth the energy expenditure. An advertisement comes on announcing that on Nickelodeon this afternoon…you guessed it! “Barbie: Princess Charm School.”

    I would offer to watch it in some twisted form of solidarity with you, but I know you wouldn’t want that. Besides, the TV will no doubt be occupied with the ultimate mind numbing American programming, NFL football!

    • LOL. I would never make anyone I love suffer through Barbie Charm School unless they were stranded on a desert island. And even then it might be too cruel! At least football has entertaining commercials!

  6. I’m sorry, but this was too funny for words. I had to sit through these with A and am so glad she does not like Barbie anymore. It was a living hell…

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