Right away, it starts. Only you don’t realize you’re in the midst of culture shock because it starts with a honeymoon phase. It truly feels like being a newlywed. Everything is fascinating, new, and exciting! You’ve taken the plunge. You’ve moved to a different country from your home country and it is pretty wonderful. Even the annoying things can be overlooked because you are wearing the blinders of true love. Your love is real and you will not be experiencing culture shock, because you’re different, right? You are open-minded or well-traveled or both. You’re the sickening brand new couple in the corner who can’t stop making out, sitting on the other’s lap, and making smoochy eyes at each other.
Eventually, you wonder if your love is as deep as you thought
Eventually, something changes and the love isn’t so deep. The blinders are off and you can see the flaws so glaringly bright. Why, oh why, didn’t you notice before how different your new country is? How could you have totally missed that you DO NOT FIT IN and NO ONE CAN UNDERSTAND YOU? Did you even act correctly in that last social situation? And since I’m American, I wonder if I smile too much? Yes, that’s a thing.
The Phases of Culture Shock
Recently, I looked up culture shock online. It’s defined as: “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.” That seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Until, just like an onion and an ogre, you begin to peel. This article defines culture shock as having four phases that can vary in severity. These phases are: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and adaptation. Everyone will experience culture shock differently and may even skip some of the phases. I was hoping I’d just stay in the honeymoon phase and skip the phase that causes anxiety.
Because really, who needs MORE anxiety?
I’m coming up to a transition. I feel it. Occasionally, I’ll wonder how my life made such a dramatic turn. I’ve also had to reexamine long held beliefs about myself and how I would prefer us to live our lives. I’ve had to explore new things and I’ve tried many new tastes (and it’s so worth it to try foods several times before making a concrete decision about disliking something – I now cannot get enough of the chili covered candies). When I said I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, I didn’t realize just how uncomfortable that would be.
We’ve been here around 4 months. In some ways, it feels like we’ve been here forever. I also can’t believe we sold our house and won’t ever be going back there. We won’t return to live there and we won’t be the same as we were before. My kids are feeling these feelings as much as I am. My children miss their house, their cats, their cousins, and friends. They didn’t have a choice in the matter. We, the parents, decided it was best and off we went, but not quite into the sunset. We hopped into a different movie. Consequently, their adjustment may even take longer than mine.
We are all still a little discombobulated.
It has gotten better with time.
I don’t regret moving here. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am happy, awed, and interested here and now. There are daily reminders of just how good we have it. So many people survive on so much less. Even though I know my feelings are valid about some things being difficult, I also feel humbled to have the constant reminder of the poverty around me. There are great riches in my neighborhood and poverty just outside of it.
As a dear friend said, referring to new experiences, “For every cockroach, there is a delicious taco.” I thought it was perfect. Everywhere has both good and bad things. This is true of every single place on the planet.
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