Before I begin, I just wanted to thank you for the great response to Part 1 of this series. It was so encouraging to read the messages and comments throughout the week. Thank you for sending them my way!

 

Hi.

My name is Natasha, and I suffer from…

Culture Shock.

 

That’s right I’m admitting it! If you read Part 1 of this series, then you understand what I mean by that, but if you didn’t let me explain…

I have found over the last few years that most people don’t like to admit to suffering from any sort of culture shock.

Recently several things got me thinking about this…

 

  • The answers given by people new to the field when I ask about their culture shock.
  • Time spent with friends who recently moved to our city or country.
  • And really my experience with our recent return to the field after a short furlough in the States.

 

The truth is, I had major culture shock on furlough which really surprised me! Things just weren’t like I remembered them in the States, and I wasn’t used to the lifestyle there.

 

It felt like an out of body experience almost! I could see all of my family and friends. My old life. My old city. Everything was a lot like I left it. Sure, there were some changes…some people had passed away, new babies had been born, friends and family had new houses, cars, and new things.

But it mostly felt the same.

There was just one thing different. Me.

I didn’t see my place there anymore.

I had no home. I was insecure. My interests had changed. I wasn’t sure what to talk about. My friends had new friends. The stores all had new things that I wasn’t used to, and truth be told, I didn’t want to know what they were since we would be leaving so soon. It was strange.

 

When we returned to China, I thought, “Yay! I’m home! It’s been such a short time. I’m sure I won’t have much trouble. Things will be normal!”

And for the first month, everything was mostly normal.

But there were some things that I had definitely forgotten about over our short time in the States, and last week a few of them surfaced…making me realize…

this culture shock stuff…

is never ending!!

 

To be clear, I certaintly don’t experience it near as much as when we first arrived on the field. After almost 3 years, we have learned to not only adapt to life here but to truly love it as well! There are just days every now and then that culture shock reappears out of no where, and I find myself dealing with some of those old frustrations.

In China, they usually appear right about the time that the paperwork does…

 

Last week, for instance, I wanted to register my daughter for pre-school. It was our first time to put her in a school, and I wanted to be prepared! So, I got together all her shot records, her birth certificate, our rental contract (everything I could think of,) and I felt not only prepared but overly prepared! I was proud of myself even (definitely learned my lesson there haha.)

We called the school, and they explained that the process was very easy. We just needed to take our daughter to a clinic to receive a physical, bring the paperwork in, pay the tuition, and we would be done! Easy peasy! Right?!?

Umm, wrong.

My helper and I got up bright and early Tuesday morning to take my little girl across town to the clinic. Clinics and hospitals used to be a main source of culture shock for me with the medical care being so different than in the States, but that morning, I felt good about it. I was prepared mentally, and although it was the same experience as before, it really wasn’t that bad for me.

Well…until, the clinic explained that we were missing the vacination book that Chinese infants receive when they are born. Without that book, they would not be able to complete the exam. So, we would need to go back across town to the vaccination clinic and then return to finish the exam. I was a tad frustrated. My toe was broken and it was really hard to keep walking to various places, but I told myself,

“okay, you can do this.”

We went back across town to get the book. But, we quickly learned that they would not give us the book until we had her vaccination records officially translated at a building close to the previous clinic….across town.

I told my helper to call the school. I was getting more and more upset.

“Did we really have to do this??” I thought!

They told us they were very sorry that they had left that out of the first conversation, but yes, we needed to do this.

So, we found a taxi and made our way to the translation office, but by the time they finished, it was getting late. We were not going to be able to finish the process that day.

We would then spend the next few days, returning to the vaccination clinic, the physical clinic, and the preschool several times before my daughter would be fully registered.

By the end of the week, I felt like my nerves were shot, and my foot was in bad shape from all the walking involved.

So, what did I do? 

Just be excited that everything was finally done, and we were able to successfully register my little girl for preschool?

No, not really.

I decided that complaining to my husband and my helper might be more satisfying!

I mean, the school should have explained that it would be this difficult right? I mean, I needed to prepare to go to all these places and they acted like it was so simple! I went and could still go on and on…

Anything but admit, that it was my problem. My attitude was the problem! I was just re-experiencing culture shock.

My husband reminded me that I should have known that things would be complicated.

Applying for school always takes some work…and we are foreigners. Things are always complicated!

I should just be happy that I was able to get everything accomplished!

Attending a preschool will be so good for her!

After thinking for a while, I realized he was right! I looked at my actions and realized that I had let culture shock get the best of me. Even though I do love living in China, there are still those moments that affect me. If I refuse to admit it, I can’t help myself.

My daughter was super excited about attending her preschool and I should have just let go of the frustration and taken the time to be excited with her.

I was reminded through this experience that I needed to keep up with my “short list.”

I need to be focused on being in the Word. Attentive to prayer and my attitude.

So when moments like these come my way, I can overcome them and not let them consume me.

 

This isn’t the only experience I’ve had since our return either. Even since the preschool preparations, I have had to deal with culture shocking moments of frustration, embarrassment, hurt and sadness.

 

So, all of these things are what led to my thinking and eventually ranting about the subject, and what we can do to help overcome our moments of culture shock whether we are new to the field, returning to the field or even on furlough.

 

Next week, I want to share a story about something awesome that happened to me (after the above story) during yet another difficult moment!

Have any of you experienced culture shock when returning home on furlough?
 If you have any stories, comments, suggestions, or helpful ideas on how we can overcome culture shock, please leave a comment below or send me a private message! I have loved the input given so far and plan to compile a final post with help from some of your feedback!

 

Be looking for the next post in this series Never Ending Culture Part 3…some great memories come at the most difficult times!

 

2 comments on “Never Ending Culture Shock Part 2

  • I had worst culture shock on furloughs, at least when I was growing up. I have not yet been on a furlough from Africa yet, but I know that it will be much the same again–that insecure, not fitting in, not understanding the way people think anymore, totally out of it feeling. Because I know I am going to experience all that again, I have not been overly anxious for furlough time to get here . . . except to see family and friends again. I’m enjoying these posts, Natasha.

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