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.