I recently read an e-book on culture shock, “Culture Shock, A Practical Guide”, by H.E. Rybol. The author is a Third Culture Kid who is familiar with both culture shock and reverse culture shock.
She says it is all about being connected to a new place. You need to figure out a way to feel comfortable so you to relax enough to enjoy your surroundings. She provides tips and tools to help. Be prepared, do your homework. Get involved, take a class, join a group.
“We need to let go of preconceived ideas to make room for reality”.
I recently moved from the East Coast to the Mid-West and after reading this book, I am thinking we all probably go into some kind of culture shock when we move anywhere. I think I have some culture shock. I need to get out and see what’s out there, learn my way around a new city, make new friends, figure out where to shop.
These things are common to every move. They are just heightened when we move to a new country where we don’t speak the language or know all the cultural differences.
H.E. Rybol acknowledges it is a process and can be challenging but affirms that it is worth every bit of it and encourages everybody to take that plunge. The rewards are “humility, kindness, gratefulness, and compassion”. You will be a better person.
Another e-book I read recently was written by two expats getting to know new places. It is called “Two Brauds Abroad, A Departure from Life as We Know It”, by Camille Armantrout and Stephanie De La Garza. The format of the book is in the form of email correspondence between two old friends. Camille is posted to Ghana because of her husband’s work. Stephanie has the travel bug and decides to sell everything and move to Central America and do volunteer work while house sitting.
Although Camille has the stability of her husband’s job she can rely on, she is not living in the lap of luxury. They are upcountry in Kumasi and share a house with several other expats. Their water and electricity are sporadic and they walk or take taxis for transportation.
Africa has its own set of challenges and Camille had her share of culture shock. She writes about the things she finds confusing, horrible, annoying, and uncomfortable. Once she finds a group of local expats she seems to perk up quite a bit and has more of a social life. In the end I am not convinced she had a wonderful experience but she certainly learned a lot and says she would go back.
On more than one occasion she mentions that under different circumstances she would probably not be friends with the expats she met in Ghana but they were all thrown together in a situation that gave them common ground. She also says one of the things she liked about living in Ghana is the lack of air conditioning. From my experience the houses in Africa are built to allow air to flow and air conditioning is not needed.
When Camille returned to the US she went home to the house she had been living in before she left and a small supportive community she knew well. Everybody welcomed her back with open arms and she suffered very little reverse culture shock.
Stephanie had traveled in Central America on holidays and decided she was sick of the rat race in the US and wanted to give it all up and go live in the jungle. She sold her house and all her belongings, quit her job, and moved to Costa Rica to house sit. Her timing was off so she had to rent for a while before moving into the house. She was immersed in the town, lived very simply, and tried to find volunteer work caring for animals.
She also encountered expats everywhere but tried to stay away from them. She wanted to be a part of where she was. Much of her story was about day to day life. The animals and bugs she encountered, the food she found, the cooking she did, the people she met, the relationships she had. When she first arrived she was sick much of the time and lost a lot of weight but it did not discourage her and she eventually regained her energy and moved on. She had spirit.
The last portion of the book is dedicated to practical tips on preparing for departure and things you should take with you. There is some good practical advice in this section.
Camille’s thoughts on culture shock:
“My advice is drink it all in, mind your feet and use your wonder and horror as catalysts for mind boggling epiphanies”.