Having travelled a lot over the last 10 years, I have really enjoyed visiting many countries learning of their history, geography, cultures, religions and ideologies. However, for the first time, I suffered culture shock on two different occasions on our recent autumn break and now can fully understand what it implies.
As we were traveling through four different countries, mainly by public buses, I did not want to carry Easter eggs and thought I would just buy them close to Easter Sunday. To my dismay, I could not find any eggs anywhere. On Easter Saturday we were staying in Mostar, which is a predominantly muslim country. I tried the smaller shops and the supermarkets that were close to the old city, but to no avail. This caught me unawares and left me with a void that can only be described as culture shock.
Locked in a bathroom
Enjoying a great meal of local dishes at a restaurant in Mostar, I needed to go to the bathroom. I set the switch to lock the door, but when I went to leave, I could not open the door. After a minute of trying, I started to call for help through the locked door and the window that was slightly ajar. After 5 mins or so, I could hear a gentleman outside my door. Unfortunately, he could not speak English, but he appeared to understand my plight and tried to open the door. Then there was complete silence! Again I felt that feeling akin to culture shock – in a land where English may not be spoken well.
However, a few minutes later, our waitress was at the door. He could speak English and after another 4 minutes or so, was able to manouvre the lock to let me out.
As my passion is global education, I often think about what our students should be taught in regard to global competencies. Should we teach culture shock, help them to cope with this feeling, learn how to mimimize the feelings etc? I also remember taking one of my students to Mumbai, India for the Flat Classroom Conference, several years ago. To help aid the transition to a completely different country, we spent time talking about what Mumbai would be like etc and we also stopped over in Singapore for two nights. Here English is spoken widely, the city is reasonably similar to our capital cities, it is clean etc. However, Hannah missed so much from home whilst we were there – eg our Holden cars etc.
What do you think? Should our students learn about culture shock? Have you ever experienced culture shock? How did you overcome it?
We are now back in Croatia where Easter eggs and decorations are noticeable everywhere, and I feel far more comfortable again.
G'day! I am a secondary teacher in a small rural prep to year 12 school in Australia. I teach Information Technology and Accounting and am passionate about learning, immersing technology in the classroom, rural education and global education.
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