Thursday, November 15, 2012

A truth about culture shock

If you Google an image of culture shock, most of what pops up will be a variation on the theme of a W shaped curve.  The description is this: You are high at home, hit rock bottom in the new culture, reach a new high in the new culture, hit rock bottom after returning home and then readjustment is high again.

Holland crossing sign

More realistic curves have far more ups and downs and several plateaus.  There are names for phases like "surface adjustment", "mental isolation" and "return anxiety".  Until you have experienced living in a culture different from your home, it's hard to understand what all this means, especially how it would be possible to suffer shock once you are "home" again...but that's where I am living these days, and I can attest that it is very real and fairly challenging for someone disinclined to wallowing.

Qatar crossing sign

If I had to plot myself on one of those charts right now with honesty, I would be in a low "mental isolation" phase.  The good news about being at the bottom of the curve is the only way to go from there is up.  I've been through all this before.  I know what it looks like, what it feels like and how it will change from month to month, year to year.  If I get on with it, it will get better, bit by bit...but I can also attest that the process is difficult, possibly never moreso than when one is at "home" because it is easier for people around you (or you yourself!) to comprehend your difficulty when the culture that challenges you isn't the same as that of your birth.

I noticed lately that I haven't been writing: not blogging, not emailing, not journaling...not much of anything where I would be inclined to record and share my thoughts.  I like to keep the negative self to myself, but then I also realized that I am not alone in this.  Culture shock, or in my case reverse culture shock, is a real challenge, and sometimes it is reassuring to find in Blogland that you are not alone.

*I know the pics are a bit random, but I thought they were interesting in relation to different cultural experiences.  One is from Holland; the other is from Qatar.

1 comment:

  1. I hope it all starts to feel a bit more normal soon. I too haven't been writing of late (no blog, no letters, no journal) and I'm missing it. I must make more of a effort to get back to it. Missing you all! xxxx
    PS- I love the random signs - I have no idea what they mean but they are intreging.