i've had a very similar experience to you, livinginkorea. i am very outgoing while teaching but as soon as i leave the safe walls of the classroom, there is a shield that goes up. (it's kind of like a force field but thats another thread)
but i dont personally like to be so "shut-off" from the culture. i hate having that "hermit" feeling but isnt that one of korea's nicknames? the hermit kingdom?
my issue is i dont like to be the center of direct attention. i prefer indirect attention. dont know if that makes sense but i like to be recognized and my dream is to be a rock star, but maybe more like a retired rock star, everyone knows them but no one is banging down the door for an interview anymore...
anyway, one change that far out weighs the fame/rockstar stuff is the amount ive grown as a person, the things i've learned about myself and where im from and my knowledge that everyone is very similar despite our cultures. we all want similar things. we just go about getting them in a different way... and to be able to accept how someone goes about their day/life is an important learning... for me at least.
great question erinjk! and welcome to eslHQ!
That sums it up exactly for me ! Great point.
I've also developed more patience and understanding of people who think and act outside of my cultural frame of reference.