Different isn’t wrong, it’s just… different.

Culture shock is a funny thing.

People often think they don’t have it. I don’t have culture shock, I like it here they say. As if “liking” has anyting to do with “shocking”. (Yes, “shocking” is a word I just came up with to shorten for culture shock. And then by explaining it I made it a thousand tiems longer anyway. Humph.)

When I was living in Greece my culture shock came by way of please and thank you.

I was 18 and working as a waitress at a restaurant on Santorini Island. Most of our customers where vacationers from Eurpoe and America and Canada and AUstralia. They wanted english-speaking staff for that reason.

But every once and a while we’d get a day with lots of Greek holiday-goers.

One day in particular I was serving Greek couple after Greek couple after Greek couple.

“Coke!” they would shout at me. “Spaghetti Bolonaise!” they would shout next. “Refill!” And on and on it went.

Never a please. Never a thank you.

maybe I woke up on the wrong side of hte bed that day, but for whatever reason by mid-shift I was ready to break down into tears.

They don’t appreciate me. They’re so rude. They’re condescending and belittling.

They haaaaaaate me.

(Why do they hate me so much?)

And then I realized… it’s cultural.

As an American it’s considered rude to throw out your orders to the server. You request. You use pleasantries. You make eye contact.

But as a Greek these people weren’t being rude in teh slightest.

They were just being Greek. THeir role was to tell me what they wanted. My role was to follow directions adn deliver. End of story.

They didn’t hate me. They weren’t being rude. (Well, most of hte time anyway.)

They were just being Greek. They were different. And different isn’t wrong, it’s just… different.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said htat over the last 15 years, most of whichI’ve lived abroad.

Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.



Q for you: Have you ever experienced culture shock? How did you handle it?



p.s. went over time today!


Click Clink Five is a blog by Adriel Booker. | Five minutes a day, unedited. | 2012 All rights reserved. | Adriel also writes on parenting and motherhood at The Mommyhood Memos.

About Adriel Booker

Author, speaker, advocate, and non-prof director. Happily married city-lover, mother, immigrant, and emoji enthusiast in a city by the sea. ✌️ View all posts by Adriel Booker

8 responses to “Different isn’t wrong, it’s just… different.

  • Heidi @ homeingreece

    I’m American. I live in Greece. No offense to your island but I loathe Santorini (we lived on a very small island near there and had to go there to get things done periodically, and it was just wretched – drowning in tourists, the worst food, the worst prices, the worst urban planning, etc.). People in Santorini ARE rude. Where we live now (a different part of Greece), not only does everyone say please and thank you to servers but they usually don’t even ask for things they want because they don’t want to be a bother (which is not good). I notice this all the time when I would go out with my husband (Greek) and our friends, and it’s the case in everywhere I’ve ever lived in Greece. But to answer your question, I have had culture shock off and on over the years living here. When I first came here, I didn’t have it at all, because I had the very firm belief that everything that happened here was happening for a good reason and if I didn’t understand it, that was just my problem. However, after a few years, I did start to exert a little more personality and now I have culture shock more often compared with when I first came here!

    • Adriel Booker

      oh, that’s so nice to hear! i never got to travel much in greece, so my experience was mostly limited to athens and santorini (and a few short trips elsewhere). of course i have some lovely greek friends (and relatives!) too, so i know i made a massive generalization with this post! BUT, it was what i experienced there!! of course, i think they were probably also annoyed that they had to order in english in their own country. perfectly understandable!!

  • Sara Miller

    LOVED today’s post! You have lived an amazing life – seeing a little glimpse of it here today is just awesome! Keep up the stories. Love you, my friend!

  • gail gumpert

    I just love your perspective on things.. I also think that really how it is when you agree to disagree..doesnt mean either one of you are right, just a different way of thinking.. Thankful we all don’t think alike.. have aBlessed day ..

  • mefoley

    I’m an American living in England — and moving to England may not sound like much, but there was *still* culture shock. If you don’t know the language–Greek, Swedish, whatever–you are *aware* you aren’t communicating; if the same word means different things in the two cultures, you may *think* you are communicating, but not getting through. And just…the way things are done, is different. Things I’d expect to do by phone I have to do in person, things I’d expect to do in person I can do by mail (UK: post), you just never know…

    • Adriel Booker

      oh yeah, i totally get that. i’m an american living in australia (and have also lived in england). culture shock can be almost harder because it IS so much like home in so many ways that you (subconsciously) EXPECT it to be the same. i’ve been here 11+ years (and am married to an aussie) and i STILL get culture shock every once and a while! ha!

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