Sunday, October 5, 2008

Foreign Frustrations

An Iraqi worker rolls an electrical wire at the rail yard

My limit is about eight weeks. That's when the phenomenon of culture shock sets in and I notice changes in my personality. Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in a foreign culture knows the feeling; you become short tempered, easily irritated by the "foreign-ness" around you, some may become vindictive or even lean toward outright racism. It's not a pleasant feeling but one of reality that many including myself often have to deal with.

I'm always amused by the tourists of the world who show up, take some pictures, have a ethnic meal or two, and begin to rave about how sweet and kind the local people are. "Why can't we all be so kind, loving, and helpful?" Yea? Spend eight weeks living among your kind and loving new friends and we'll see what you think then! I guarantee that you'll be restraining yourself daily from violence.

If forced to remain in the culture this "shock" eventually dissipates and is replaced by acceptance. That is if you're not in a local jail for running over a little old lady with an SUV.


NellaLou said...

Another really interesting post. Each year I am in India for 7-9 months. Have been doing this going on 7 years. It has become a sort of "home-leaving" in the Buddhist sense.

For the longest time I found myself constantly, though silently, asking "Why don't they...?" (fill in the blank with just about anything)in many situations. Basically it meant "Why don't they do it my way?" and it was to me an assertion of ego. My way was the correct one. It was also a pretty heavy judgment on those I encountered. Occasionally the question still pops up but I acknowledge it for what it is and move on.

Over the years people I have become close to have challenged so many of those things I thought I believed and knew with complete confidence. Once someone very close to me said "White is right hey?" in a moment of great anger. That shook this apparently liberal individual to the core. And they were correct. I was acting on the assumption that I and my opinion and my culture were superior.

All in all what I have learned, and continue to learn is everyone is really human and really vulnerable and just trying to do the best they can in the circumstances they find themselves. Exactly the same as me. In Buddha-speak they are me.

Culture shock can be a great awakener.

(as an aside and you can edit this out-you have spelled Foreign incorrectly in the post title)

Long-time RN said...

Enjoy the posts and photos. Take care.