Ok, it seems that my blog has generated some discussions among our own friends, for good reason that is. We have had mood swings, bewilderment, enthusiasm, borderline depression, an overwhelming feeling of everything being different, we have criticised and we have been criticised and much more. There is a name for this… …it is called cultural shock!
Let me put it in perspective, most people I know, would not move to the other side of the town they live in. Whether that is because it is not a place they know or it is far away from friends and family, it does not really matter. It is foreign to them so they stick to what they know and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Well, we are about 16.000km away from where home used to be and nothing much is here that we can hold on – for better or worse – to insert some routine, some sanity into our daily lives. Our values, our priorities, the things we know and what we consider common sense, the rules and regulations, they are all very different, they are foreign. Certainly, the fact that we have moved 4 times within two states in Australia did not contribute to any routine being established. We again moved this past weekend and we hope that this will be the last time for the next couple years.
So back to cultural shock, it is a normal condition and everyone that emigrates goes through at least some of the stages of cultural shock. Even if one goes back to the country that he grew up after living in a different one will go through the shock, albeit a reverse cultural shock. It is extremely important to get a routine in place and to be open to the new environment, to smile and keep positive and communicate with the new surrounding as much as possible. It is one thing to say it and another to actually do it, it is a very difficult task but it is not insurmountable.
I remember the first one I went through back in 1990 in the St. Louis, a place that I know call home (one of many, more on this on another post) but one that I hated with all that I had for a couple months in the fall of 1990. It has long turned into an eternal love affair. There has been a few since and it always has turned all right. I was not keen to move to Germany and now I miss it, I call it… you guessed it right… home! I have always been a bit sentimental and as much as I look forward to exciting times I look back at fun times, I do though forget the pain along the way and that is fine by me.
So to our shock now. Culture shock is defined as a psychological disorientation that most people experience when living in a culture markedly different from one’s own. Culture shock occurs when our “…cultural clues, the signs and symbols which guide social interaction, are stripped away. …A difficult part of this process for adults is the experience of feeling like children again, of not knowing instinctively the ‘right’ thing to do.” (Piet-Pelon & Hornby, 1992, p.2). In general there are four phases to a cultural shock: Honeymoon, Adjustment, Negotiation and Mastery. Everyone experiences it in different ways and so it is for us. We are between the negotiation and the adjustment phase, had it not been for the four moves within Australia we would probably be ahead of that. We are building a routine, we have started friendships, Ben has started with Kinder and so it goes. We will be reaching the mastery phase in the next few months and while that does not necessarily mean that we will totally assimilate it means that we will feel at home and as we have many homes by now this will be another one that we will come to love.