Friday, February 15, 2008

Coping with Culture shock

Well, the truth is, I don't feel like I'm coping very well with it at all.

Back in October of last year I wrote a Works For Me Wednesday post one week when it was a 'backwards' week - instead of telling people something that works for you, you got to ask a question, and hopefully other people were able to help you with answers. I asked for advice about going to be an au pair in Texas (which was the stage the plans were at at that time). One of the commenters mentioned being aware of Culture Shock, and different stages of adjustment that you go through when you do something like this.

I didn't really think about it much while I was away, and indeed I think on the whole I found it quite easy to get adjusted to being in Texas. Having come back though, I'm finding it a lot more difficult to readujst, and am still having my moments when I want to burst into tears about it all. Anyway, I rememdered what the girl said, and have just been reading up a bit online about culture shock and how to cope with it.

Here's some info I found from the BBC

Reverse Culture Shock Stage
Finally, in the vast majority of cases the immigrant will return to their own country. Once there the fourth, and most unexpected, stage occurs and this is referred to as the reverse culture shock stage. Upon arriving back, the returning resident will be eager to share their experiences of another culture that have made them a different person. However, they have returned to a group of people, and indeed a country, that has changed in the interim. These changes can be subtle or far-reaching, but they will affect the way that the returnee is accepted by, or accepts, their own host country and its residents. Often the change required will be too great. The returnee will in many cases deal with this by returning to the host culture or exploring another culture and language.

The reverse culture shock can be dealt with in part by studying the home culture as assiduously the host culture. In the period between departure and return a number of things may have changed, especially if a number of years have elapsed. The would-be returnee should find out what these changes are. On a more personal note the returnee should get back in touch with old friends and organise to meet them upon their return. Be prepared to find that they have changed markedly, or indeed that they have not changed at all. Some of them may want to hear all about the experiences you had, whilst others will take a polite interest then show irritation as you continue to talk about 'When I was in... ' If the returnee finds out that the former home culture seems more foreign than the one left behind then it may be that another trip abroad is required!

Personally, I like the idea of another trip abroad, but I'm not sure that would necessarily be the right thing for me to do.

I think what blows my mind is that I always considered the UK my home, I was a 'London' girl, and thought I alwats would be. Although I've lived in other places in England, I was always glad to be back in London. But now, I feel like I've left half of me behind in Texas, and no-where feels properly like home anymore. I feel like I've changed, but I've come back to the same old place I left (no offense intended to my friends and family here). And I don't feel like I quite fit in here anymore. I'm sure that in time I can work at it and try to fit in here again, but I don't know if I want to do that.

I'm scared, becauseI have no idea what I want to do next with my life. Right now I'd love to still be in El Paso, with blest and her boys, thinking about things like who's going to go to piano lessons and who's staying at home, or whether the van will be fixed so that everyone will get to go to church this week, but I'm not there. I'm here, in London, and I have to face up to the fact that I have absolutely no idea what to do next. And I'm terrified about it. Living in the 'real world' again, rather than being on an extended holiday or 'time-out' is frightening, and when you twin that with the reverse culture shock, can you blame me for just wanting to get back into bed, pull up the duvet and sit and cry?!


Leann said...

(((HUG))) You have grown and changed and that is a good thing. You have been afforded a luxury that most people never get and you have been enriched in many ways for the travel and new friends. Trust God to work out the details for what comes next. Love to you girl!!!

HP said...

I know a little bit how you feel. I feel a bit like that when I go home cos it's not totally home any more. My family have all dispersed and I dont have structured things to do there anymore. I'm not sure that Exeter is home either. I think maybe I feel at home wherever Steve is.
Plus also, we love you Debbie. Steve reminded me I have to say that!!
big hugs

Kathleen said...

I don't blame you for wanting to sit and cry at all. You're dealing with a lot at the moment. It sounds overwhelming. But eventually it WILL work itself out. Just try and think positive and know that you've got lots of people pulling for you on both sides of the Atlantic.

Anita said...

I think the part that makes it even harder to adjust is not having a job or routine to return to. And, the reverse culture shock is part of the growing process as well as your first adventure outside of your country. All I know how to do (for myself) when things are uncertain is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My prayers are with you as you head into this stage of your adventure.

blest said...

I don't have any wisdom at all...

but I sure do love you!!!

Debs said...

And knowing that makes me smile, blest :-)