Saturday, August 16, 2014

cultural adjustment is a forever endeavor

Read a great post on culture shock over at Velvet Ashes, and this quote really resonated with me: "Culture shock is a part of cultural adjustment, and that is a forever endeavor." Sometimes I have a hard time articulating how I feel and think, and it's always refreshing to find someone who gets it.

And I certainly agree that this cultural adjustment is a "forever endeavor". Six years in and I'm still occasionally surprised by what I call a "cultural whammy". Something pops up that I haven't encountered before, and it throws me for a loop.

One of the first things to bother me was the way people litter. Rather than walk five feet to toss something in a trash can, they just throw it on the ground. Rude! Then I found out that this is because people want to ensure that those who are paid to clean up the streets and parks will continue to have a job. In theory I get it. Unfortunately, in practice what happens is that they pick up the bigger pieces of trash, but walk right by lots of little pieces. Then those who mow run right over the small debris, shredding and whipping the now thousands of tiny bits all over.

As our circle of acquaintances grew and we began to socialize more, I ran into another cultural wall. Not everyone, but quite a few, will tell you what they think you want to hear, whether they mean it or not. For instance, you invite someone over for dinner. "Sure!" they say, "We'll be there!" Only they never show. In my mind, it would have been kinder to say no up front, before I bought and prepared all that food. In their mind it was kinder to agree to my face, thus making me feel good in that moment, even though they had no intention of coming. Huh?!

There have been many other instances of culture shock, and often, even when I understand the "why", I still find myself scratching my head. Rather than let it get to me, I've adopted the attitude "Es lo que hay" which roughly translates "It is what it is". It's not right or wrong, it's just different.

It also helps to think about some of the crazy cultural aspects of my home country :)

And I appreciate that my friends here have accepted me, graciously overlooking my many mistakes and cultural faux pas, laughing with me rather than at me. After all, isn't that what we want in any culture? 


rita said...

Beautifully said. True. Good examples.
Loved the Velvet Ashes post. Can relate to too many points!

Mari said...

Those cultural things have to be really hard to deal with. I'd be upset if I prepared a meal and no one came to eat it. I suppose they think the same of us though!

Terra said...

I would not appreciate those examples you share, littering to create jobs! Saying you will come to dinner and then not showing up! Goodness.

Anonymous said...

I really like this post. I can totally see your examples (though slightly twerked to fit the culture I am in).
In reading your post, it felt like hearing a friend talk, and I could relate.

Anisha said...

I love how you point out there are crazy aspects of our own cultures as well. Thanks for sharing!

The Bug said...

When I was in Zambia I ran into the same problem of a person agreeing with me just to make me happy - crazy-making!