Culture shock – the reason behind the title

I just started this blog. Four days ago. It almost failed to be published because I didn’t know how to call it. Any excuse is good when you are a writer at heart who doesn’t write. I have been thinking about this blog for a year at least, since I have always written and wanted to update myself to a new age of communication.

How to capture everything I want to publish in a title? Especially when I don’t even know exactly what I will publish. Procrastination is evil. So I thought about what would be in that blog, what would make it interesting. Seven years ago I started a second career, following my husband also starting his second career. Why did we join the Foreign Service? He joined, I followed, reinventing myself in each country.

Note to self: in a future post, describe all my different jobs paid and unpaid ever since we joined the Department of State – it might help the spouses debating whether or not to give up their career to become a ‘follower’.

So, why did we join the Foreign Service? The short answer is:

  • all our money was used to travel anyways, so why not get paid to travel?
  • we love to learn about different cultures and living in a country would help us live a culture instead of just touching the surface of it
  • we are foodies, my husband is a great cook so living in different countries sounded very appealing from this perspective as well
  • we are raising two kids; with the globalization of the world they would be stronger, more accepting of differences and integrate better if they had this experience under their belts

In the end it was all about Culture. But when you move to a different country, even next door, you receive a Culture Shock. The online Oxford Dictionary defines culture shock as ‘disorientation experienced when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life.’  Indeed moving to a new country confronts you to different everything: people, language, landscape, food, weather, dress codes, public transport, religion, customs, smells, sounds, animals … Depending on past experience and character it could lead to homesickness, misunderstanding, dependence feeling, boredom, anger … or exhilaration and creativity!

Cultural orientation experts will tell you that your culture shock will develop in four phases: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, and Mastery.

In the Honeymoon phase the differences are not a challenge, you thrive on them, you love your new country, and you are fascinated by all your discoveries. Depending on the country and the person, this phase lasts one to four months.

In the Frustration phase differences become a problem and cause anxiety and anger. At work you have passed the 100-day grace period where you could find excuses for not knowing things. Two months could be a holiday, after this you may become homesick or friend sick.

In the Adjustment phase reason speaks to your heart. You have moved to this new country for one year, four years or more – you can’t spend this big chunk of your life miserable! What made you angry for six months could have its advantages too. You push your paradigms to ‘new normal.’ Perhaps you have learned the language and this has helped you better understand the culture and be more welcome among locals.

In the Mastery phase, without being completely assimilated you act like a local, almost feel like one. You embrace the differences and you adopt part of the host culture. If you are very successful at this phase you might experience a reverse culture shock when you return to your home land.

Hence the subtitle under my blog name: Culture Shock – Staying in the Honeymoon Phase. This is a second career, it needs to be all fun by adopting a positive attitude at all times. We may reach the Mastery Phase but we have pledged to skip the frustration and adjustment phases. Have you noticed? These two phases don’t deserve cap letters!

This is over 660 words, more than I need for my 500 words-a-day challenge. More on this at http://goinswriter.com/.

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