Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's Time to Talk about Culture Shock

I have always considered culture shock as the panicky feeling you get when you first get to a new country--when all you can see is how different everything seems to be. I just figured it was something that lasted a couple of days, and with a couple of good nights' sleep you were cured.

I was wrong.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about culture shock and it is much more than a few days of discomfort. I just pulled this section from the Wikipedia entry on culture shock. Check it out:
  • Honeymoon Phase - During this period the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light, wonderful and new. For example, in moving to a new country, an individual might love the new foods, the pace of the life, the people's habits, the buildings and so on.

(I am past this phase--but remember when my blog celebrated how different Chile was! And I remember how scared I was to do the tiniest thing because of the language problem.)

  • Negotiation Phase - After some time (usually weeks), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. One may long for food the way it is prepared in one's native country, may find the pace of life too fast or slow, may find the people's habits annoying, disgusting, and irritating etc. This phase is often marked by mood swings caused by minor issues or without apparent reason. Depression is not uncommon.

(oh, how I miss Baja Fresh! and how annoyed I can still get with the line cutters...and the disgusting habit of nose picking that seems to plight the men of this country. Has nobody heard of a kleenex?)

  • Adjustment Phase - Again, after some time (usually 6 - 12 months), one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines. One knows what to expect in most situations and the host country no longer feels all that new. One becomes concerned with basic living again, and things become more "normal".

(I think I'm slowly transitioning to this phase. My life here feels normal, though every once in a while, I regress to the Negotiation phase where I just get so tired of it being so "Chilean" here.).

I've been working out at the gym a lot and writing a lot and both of these things are making me really happy. But strangely (and most likely from the heat and working out so much and culture shock too), I'm just kind of tired too.

It's a time of transition here. January and February are the months when hardly anyone is around. Everything is at half pace, mainly because it's too darn hot to go any faster. Schedules for gym classes are reduced because not enough people are around. This is the thing I never liked about summer. I thrive on structure and routine. I know this. And summer just throws everything to the wind. Everything that I could count on has been rearranged. I feel caught unaware. Like everyone was part of a secret and I was not let in on it. Now I'm scrambling, trying to rearrange myself in such a way that I might mix better with this summertime Chile. To be chill. Unplanned. Unstructured. Thrown to the wind. (stop laughing Eric...I could be chill if I tried...)

Anyway, wish me luck...I believe I'm gonna need it, big time.

1 comment:

TAD said...

Luck luck luck, lots of luck for you - oh how I wish it were warm here, the grass is always greener.