The Real Truth About Culture Shock
Like many of us, I always thought that the famous culture shock hits hardest when entering a new and extremely different culture and environment. But let me tell you something here.
The culture shock sneaks in to sabotage your life after returning home. It makes you feel miserable, anxious, sick and so alone. Imagine yourself swimming alone in a cold, dark, bottomless pond. You are LOST.
It's tough. But at the same time you could and should make something important out of it by finding and understanding meanings for your reaction. Face your fear.
You might feel euphoric for a couple of days after arriving back home. It feels good to see your loved ones; your family and friends, and you'll have that funny feeling when doing all daily things "the normal way" (not the Ghana-way). Like flushing toilet paper down the WC instead of strictly throwing them in a separate bin. Or taking a hot bath and feeling almost royal. You can drink from the tap, you don't sweat non-stop, the air you breath is fresh and clean. I could continue this list endlessly, because during those first days so many every day things at home feel great and you get to actually appreciate those tiny things you always took for granted.
Sometimes the returning feels nothing but ugly right from the start. You could just get your luggage and book a next flight far away from home rather than stepping out from those airport exit doors. And before that, you might have spent your entire flight figuring out innovative and weird solutions for your next escape. (I truly thank the Universe and all the powers of the world for not making my great manic panic ideas come true..!!)
"Hurry and I-don't-careism are one of those things
I don't want to face or sense during the worst moments."
The rebellion against everything keeps growing within and the confrontation can begin, hurrayh! You get almost venomous with your closest people. You simply can't share your thoughts with others. You start to question the good old things. You don't get understood. You don't belong.
In my home country, Finland, one can have his / her space and distance from others without asking and that makes you feel even more lonely. All those moments of joy shared with the people far away "in the different reality" feel more important than ever and having such happiness back at home feels quite impossible.
I spent a long period in Ghana last year and I remember how deeply I adapted once again to the local life. I hadn't really followed any news from the rest of the world or what was going on at home in Finland. Then one day, a few weeks after returning back home, I was driving my car in my home town Turku and listening to the local radio station. "What the hell are these people saying!?" All I could hear was some soulless, shallow nonsense! And right there, while standing at the traffic light I just snapped. Literally hit my rage breaking point. It felt awful: "So this is all these people have got to say? What is the newsworthiness or problem here?!"
...It's very hard to find the balance between two different, completely opposite worlds that both have their own pros and cons.
"After all, it's a privilege to build my worldview
from the best elements of two different cultures."
Aside my own culture shocks I've also seen many of my friends having their rough aftermaths, the highest highs, the lowest lows and the final tipping points.
One of my friends quit her job after her trip to Ghana as she could finally recognize how sick the old work made her feel and on the other hand she could also see what actually made her passionate and happy in life. Another friend requested a leave of absence and returned back to Ghana just to live for herself as her kids had recently moved out and she had her independence after all the busy years. A third friend of mine ended up traveling to China, to find answers for questions that had raised in Ghana.
Many have got answers and clarity for their love or work life, future goals and life crises.
"They say you have to go far to see close,
and I think that Ghana offers a perfect opportunity for this.
Ghana makes one face him/herself."
Ghanaian timeless, easy-going, human and friendly lifestyle with strong contrasts gives you a great chance to think and meet yourself in a new light. For me, Ghana has taught me to be more and more gracious to myself.
I think that a successful trip evokes feelings and shakes your world. You feel touched; something has made an immense impact on you. Or you've found something you once lost within you, or you learn something completely new about yourself! It's not easy but it's worth it. So let's just go for those culture shocks, even if they hurt. They make us better and they lead us towards our dreams we are not always even aware of.