Culture Shock

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.
Easter Eggs
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.


6 responses to “Culture Shock

  1. i definitely feel that culture shock should be taught to students. I teach at an international school so have dealt with it often over the years and even after eight years still do sometimes. My students have all felt it. Students that don’t have the opportunity to travel outside of their own culture should definitely be involved in projects or activities that give them a sense of what culture shock feels like. The biggest problem with culture shock is that even if you are prepared for it happening when it happens it is often unexpected. Glad you were able to get out of the bathroom. 🙂

  2. I think cultural diversity should be taught. Students should learn how to be respectful of all cultures. In the global project “A Week in the Life”, we teach the 3rd graders at my school to think about what they discuss on the project so that they don’t offend anyone. When they ask what offends? We ask them to think about anything that might make them uncomfortable. We ask them to not use words such as “strange” or “weird”, but words like “different”. Cultural differences are hard to experience unless you are traveling. But students can discuss their own experiences with culture and hopefully learn from each other.

  3. missionfieldcounselling

    Yes absolutely. If you’re living overseas short/long term, whether working or studying, having an understanding of culture shock can really help to cope with a vast array of feelings and thoughts that you may experience. Pre-warned is pre-armed:-) Glad you got back to your Easter eggs!

  4. Reblogged this on eimaan and commented:
    Since I have studied in U.A.E. with the international students, I think culture shock is something students should be taught about.

  5. Pingback: Culture Shock Survey « Where Next Japan

  6. Thanks everyone for your feedback. I was intrigued to get the pingback from a Culture Shock Survey from a blogger in Japan. The questions on this survey are interesting. However, I am really interested in two of them: what triggers culture shock and how can we actually teach this concept to students?

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