The First Year {Culture Shock}

by Laura on April 4, 2011

How do you deal with culture shock? Good question, and I’m not sure I have the answers, but I do have some thoughts on handling the realities of culture shock through that critical first year in a new country.  I wanted to talk about it, before I forgot about it —

What are your thoughts/stories on dealing with culture shock? {And culture shock doesn’t have to be as dramatic as moving overseas– it could be moving into a new religious culture, a new social setting, etc.}

You can read more posts in my series about life during the first year overseas here.

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  • @ngie

    That’s a cool way to think of it, Laura. I am glad you took the time to record your thoughts.

  • Ann Kroeker

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on culture shock. I wrote a piece recently for (THC) about this topic.

    Soon (next week is the plan) we are going to launch a community writing project at THC inviting bloggers to write about their experiences crossing cultures. Dena Dyer is going to host it at her blog and we’ll announce it at THC. We hope to have a lot of people sharing their stories–I hope you’ll participate! You could link up so many of your posts on this topic (including this one).

    Your breathing analogy was a very good one. I’ve felt that even when we’ve been visiting my husband’s family in Belgium.

    • Laura

      Oh, Wow! Thanks so much, Ann, for letting me know. I will definitely be heading over to Higher Calling and checking it out!

  • Sharon @ Hiking Toward Home

    Excellent analogy! I struggled with culture shock… I think even up to the day we left the field. (after 6 years)
    And I am going through it again in that “new social setting” you wrote about.
    You seem to be adjusting very well.
    We arrived on the field completely unprepared and with very little support system in place. We had no clue what culture shock was and the people we “worked” with taught that if you are experiencing culture shock it is because you are not “right with God”. yeah. really.
    NOW that I know what it is… if I were going to a new field today… I would approach it from a completely different stand point.
    Hugs to you Laura!

    • Laura

      Girl, that is just crazy!! I can not imagine what it must have felt like to be authentically struggling and then for people to slam you with you must not be “trusting God enough.” How hurtful. I mean, really. Hard.

      Glad you survived it, friend. And glad you lived to tell the story. . .

  • Paige

    Love the analogy, Laura! It really presents a vivid image of what it must be like. We can’t wait to see you and have you all breathing easier for a while!

    • Laura

      Friend, Yes, I am ready to breathe 100% for a few weeks . . . :)

      • @ngie

        Hi Laura, I’m back. :) Trust me when I say these things I am going to say to you I am saying them in all kindness. Really.

        If you can at all (and I know it is very hard to do) please try not to expect 100%. After a year on the field you are different. People in the States you thought you knew are different. At best aim for like 80%. The rush, the re-entry, the readjustments has often been called reverse culture shock.

        Maybe you know all this already. I hope we can still be friends even when I tell you that you are going to have a blast but there may be some tough moments.

        After I had been to the States and back to Bolivia again there came a season when it seemed like all my friends were going back to the States to ‘visit home’ all at the same time. I wrote a funny little send off poem to them. You might like to read it. While it is culturally set in Bolivia I am sure you will get the gist as it relates to your upcoming breather break.

        Again, I am very happy for you and I hope you have a spectacular trip.

        • Laura

          @ngie, oh, friend–thank you for your honest, wise insight. I must admit I AM a bit nervous about our upcoming visit. I am worried we will be a little shell-shocked, that we’ll act all weird-socially, that we will feel a little alien– even back home. Thanks for the wise caution–

          And I loved your poem!!

        • @ngie

          So glad we are still friends :)

  • Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight

    Really great message – you are gaining such powerful, experiential wisdom. In the hard obedience.

    Just wanted to let you know – I wrote about you in a post called “The Intoxicating Aroma of More” – didn’t think you had seen it yet.

    You are such a blessing.

  • Marysol

    I reposted this on my facebook page b/c the analogy is spot on! I found that yes the 6-9 month mark is tough, and so it 18 months. Honestly, waves of it flood over you unexpectedly throughout the years and then you tell yourself “you should be over this”. But it is a journey, one very few understand. Hardest for us is now going back to our home cultures, the 100% air making my heart flutter. Blessings to you guys, I’ll add you to my regular reads. -Marysol

  • Dena Dyer

    I hope you WILL join us for the cross-cultural project. Your insights are so valuable and helpful.

    See you soon at THC!

  • Ann Kroeker

    Hi! Dena has the “host” site up for the community writing project (it’s at her personal blog):

    I hope you link this up. I think it’s an important message.

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