Culture Shock

To me, this is just another name for stepping out of your comfort zone. Only this time you do it in a completely different place as well as having completely different experiences, interactions, what-have-you. I think it’s the topic of study and importance to many because when you leave the comfort of every familiar surrounding as well as submerging yourself in new experiences things can get a little overwhelming.

I can confidently say its true for me after two international moves now. I may at times psyche myself into it because I know about it, or maybe I am more familiar to the feeling and can identify it. Regardless of the why, it is something that can be somewhat magical and mystifying if looked at with their proper lens.

It’s said that humans are creatures of habit. One only has to look as far as someone’s morning commute through traffic: if they hit a stoplight they don’t normally hit, if someone cuts them off and wakes them up from listening to talk radio, if they arrive 5 minutes too late, complete dishevelment looms around the corner. We want things wrapped neatly, having the folds and creases in the exact place we want them, and if something disrupts this, it can disrupt us. Many people act contrary to this though, and seek out the unknown, the disruption, the chaos. Maybe thermodynamics is to blame, but it does seem to be something that every human has ingrained in them: Jung attributes this to the collective unconscious, I like to attribute this to the existence of an immortal soul imprinted by God. Whichever way makes sense to you, change seems to be something that is good. Helping us to grow and adapt, change is nature’s way of telling us that we are stuck in the mud, and we can either respond by staying in the same place, hoping not to get dirty, or splashing in the puddles and clean up when you’re through it.

I bring this topic up as it hits close to home after 2 months of being in a new country, a new life. I miss friends. I miss family. I’ve made friends. I’ve started a family. The fact is that things were always going to change anyway, so it was up to me whether I wanted to enjoy the ride or not. Yes, there are those few days were you just want to have your dog jump on top of you and lick your face for 10 minutes, or grab a beer at the local brewery with your friends, talk with your family around the dinner table, or meet up with a buddy at 8pm and shut the restaurant down. Those are inevitable. Don’t get me wrong, mourning is an important process in life:

We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination. – C.S. Lewis

And releasing emotion is better than keeping it pent up. The challenge I have found is this: let yourself feel sad, remember why you are feeling sad, and let that brighten your day. Knowing you are loved can be just as powerful as feeling that love directly. Hell, it’s what got me through 4 years of long-distance relationship-ing with wifey (although the in-person love does wonders).

For me, it’s not just in the move. Wifey and I headed to North Africa for 7 days and the same feelings came creeping back:

“I can’t haggle! Why won’t these people let me be? Why are they touching me? Don’t they respect personal space?”

“I’m sick of eating this food, I want to cook in my kitchen.” – It’s not our kitchen.

“I hate not understanding the language. I feel like I’m missing something.” – To be honest it felt like I was the butt of a joke. And maybe I was. Maybe we were. But the unsettled feeling was a new experience and for the times I thought to myself, I’m really not enjoying this, there were 3-fold experiences that were incredible and I will always remember. Haggling for my first taxi fare, picking a pop-up food stand to eat at and enjoying the local food (and enticing more business for the owners), and besting Mt. Toubkal and feeling like I was that much closer to God (if only for 5 minutes. God likes it cold apparently. Makes sense if Hell is fire, right?).

I close with this thought: change and new experiences and stepping out of your comfort zone and culture shock can leave a lasting mark on your life. In the midst, it feels like a dent. When you step back though, don’t be surprised if you notice that the artist has sculpted something new.


One thought on “Culture Shock

  1. A part of me wants to fly over and bring you home, and another part just brings this huge smile, with excitement of all you are living!! Love you!


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