I’m gonna take these next two posts to talk a bit about culture shock. This is the time of year that people have been accepted to and are beginning to prepare for study abroad. Most programs will include some sort of discussion about the «roller coaster of culture shock», but in case yours doesn’t…
This is really excellent advice.
"Like it or not, how you deal with this process will determine whether or not you have a good year. Everyone will experience it. Symptoms include: sleep troubles (of a wide variety), exhaustion, headaches, irritability, general depression and loss of appetite. The worse your culture shock is, the worse these will be, so it’s important to recognize and monitor yourself because here’s the thing, The Pits is a great gaping bog of a place. It can suck you down and hold you there all year long. Am I scaring you? Good. Now you’ll be paying attention for the next section."
Vincent: You know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Vincent: It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just… it’s just there, it’s a little different.
How have you worked through culture shock or reverse culture shock?
I’ve blogged quite a bit about being in Japan—but I’ve neglected to mention what happens when you come home. Granted, I’ve never been abroad for very long. Six weeks in Germany. Five in Japan. It’s not enough time to get over the “honeymoon” phase of being abroad, to really get integrated into the culture, to be a part of it. I can’t say, then, that I experienced true reverse culture shock—where you feel disoriented in your home country, where you have trouble reconnecting with your old friends, where suddenly it’s harder to live at home than abroad. Regardless, I had a bit of a jolt…
It is soup, beautiful soup, that I miss more than anything, not French soup, all puréed and homogenized, but American soup, with bits and things, beans and corn and even letters, in it. This can shake you up, this business of things almost but not quite being the same. A pharmacy is not quite a drugstore; a brasserie is not quite a coffee shop; a lunch is not quite a lunch.
My feelings displayed on a chart. How strange.
The famous W-curve (or U-curve) of cultural adaptation. It is really normal and common for people to go through different stages of adaptation and for you to be homesick or frustrated at times and feel really triumphant or happy at others. Talk to someone if you feel like your ups and downs are too high or too low, but know that this sort of excitement and frustration is normal!
What was your “aha” moment?
Welcome to America, Please Be On Time: What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S. - The Atlantic
Flipping through a few of the many English-language tourist guides provides a fascinating, if non-scientific and narrow, window into how people from the outside world perceive America, Americans, and the surprises and pitfalls of spending time here.
Talking to people in other countries (or reading their guidebooks) can be a good way to reflect on your own national identity.
Being able to think optimistically about what you’ve learned abroad not only helps you feel better as you process your feelings about coming home, but it can also help you articulate how you are different—to family, friends, teachers, mentors, and current and potential employers.
At first, it may be challenging to put your experiences and thoughts into words, and it’s normal to have conflicting feelings about being back. Judith Martin, an authority on intercultural reentry and reverse culture shock, says, “Although this confusion may lead to temporary reentry difficulties, effective communication and relationship formation play important roles in processing this identity change and in integrating old and new knowledge, behaviors, feelings, and perspectives—all of which require time and effort.”
If you are returning from studying abroad and need help processing your experiences, there are a lot of good tips under the "reentry" tag on this blog.
Breakfast is one of those cultural things we take for granted. Some things are for eating only in the morning. Some things are definitely not for eating in the morning. Turns out, cultures all over the world have different ideas about what’s breakfast-appropriate and what isn’t! Check the link above for some delicious-looking photos of breakfasts around the world.
#124: English Pudding vs American Pudding
If you go to a restaurant in England and order pudding (in this case, sticky-toffee pudding) this is what you’ll receive:
Confused? Me to. Back home, this would probably be called a small cake.
In the U.S., this is what we call pudding (the popular JELL-O brand made famous by comedian/actor Bill Cosby):
Either way, they are both delicious.
Kids today, with their hippin’, and the hoppin’, and the bippin’, and the boppin’, they don’t know about
jazz cultural differences in dessert identification!