Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Culture Shock

Ha! I've got it. I knew it was there. It's called culture shock. You wouldn't think you could be attacked by this thing when in your own country. And when not totally immersed in the 'foreign' culture. But . . .

Culture shock is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse. . .These cues, which may be words, gestures, facial expressions, customs, or norms are acquired by all of us in the course of growing up and are as much a part of our culture as the language we speak or the beliefs we accept. . . When an individual enters a strange culture, all or most of these familiar cues are removed. He or she is like a fish out of water. No matter how broad-minded or full of good will he may be, a series of props have been knocked from under him. This is followed by a feeling of frustration and anxiety. People react to the frustration in much the same way. First they reject the environment which causes the discomfort: "the ways of the host country are bad because they make us feel bad." (from here).

So, exactly what I said in the previous post. The frustration and negativity is part of the process of adjustment. It's a funny culture that I'm in. It's partly 'Methodist Church' culture, partly Grahamstown Xhosa culture and partly Jhb black African culture - the latter is at college. And so I am trying to adapt to more than one culture. And with my family away, I have no base in my own culture at all.

The article goes on to explain the phases of culture shock and how to get through it. Basically, learn all you can about the culture and be patient. Again, I guess I had that figured out.

But now I do understand my negativity. It is normal and I am not abherrant (is that right?). I mean I'm not weird. But I do not think the Methodist Church has the remotest idea of the amount of strain that it is putting on phase 1 probationers. Yes, there is the cross-cultural stationing. But there is also college culture - determined by the biggest and loudest group - and that is not my cultural group. And also they want to stretch our theological thinking, knocking away some of the props of our faith. Our church worship experience is not what we are used to. And now the trend is that we are separated from our families. For some (not me) there is also uncertainty about stipends every month.

I think that this system grew out of some very good ideas, but I am afraid that something has gone wrong. And the church knows it, because it is changing it.

In the meantime, if it is within my emotional and mental means, I will survive.

1 comment:

Steve Hayes said...

I experienced culture shock when I first went to Britain. It surprised me, because I did not expect it. I thought that because they spoke the same language, it wouldn't feel so foreign. How wrong can you be!