Cultural Shock…

Philly Skyline

Philly Skyline

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.

Wuppertal-Panorama

Wuppertal-Panorama

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.

The Arch

The Gateway to the West

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.

So long…

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Ben in an airport and on the move again...

Ben in an airport and on the move again…

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Global Citizen

It is no secret that I despite the fact that I am Greek by birth I feel more at home in an anglophone world.  The irony is, I spend most of my life in the German world and I carry a German passport, indeed it is my “main” passport.  I am at home here. My wife holds two passports, my son holds three, despite his young age of 3 he seemingly understands three languages.  A lot of people here find it peculiar and in many countries the law does not even allow such things.  A lot of people frown upon it as they do not seem to understand how or why that is possible.

I understand that sometimes it is hard to comprehend but I always felt at home wherever I went and I believe we will feel at home in Australia.  I have no doubt that once we have settled down in place that we will have rent or bought we will feel that we had been around for much longer than we actually have.  I have travelled so much and there are many countries where I feel I could settle without any major issues.  This obviously is not a talent, it is just reality that has grown from years of experiences with people from all over the world.  I have family and friends in many places and I can relate to them, I know what routine looks and feels like for many of them and funny enough I have myself been stuck in traffic in many cities around the world be it New York, be in New Delhi or Tokyo.

I believe though that there is a deeper underlying reason for this, I believe people everywhere are very similar in so many ways.  The basic needs of providing for your family, the sense of belonging, the need for recognition, etc. are the same everywhere.  Obviously, there are big differences on how some of those needs are fulfilled and the only thing that I can say is that I have been very respectful and mindful on those differences.  People have a tendency to complicate things but once you can go past that and see the simplicity, there is a lot of beauty.  At the end of the day you get out of most anything whatever you put in, and we are going to put everything in our new lives in our new country.  Hope….