Sunday, October 18, 2009

Culture Shock

Right now it's almost 1:45 pm and I just finished breakfast. Routine has officially begun to set in...

It's a slightly different experience for everybody depending on what their situation is and how familiar they are with their surroundings, but whenever you leave your home, your family and friends, and your familiar surroundings, and travel to a foreign land with a different culture and different customs, you experience culture shock in one form or another. Culture shock can mean very different things to different people, but for the most part, everybody experiences the "honeymoon" phase where everything is new and exciting, the first part of the "shock" of culture shock. This is one of the most exciting phases of doing a foreign exchange program because even if you've done your homework and think that you're prepared for change, you can never really be prepared for what's ahead.

Everything is new and exciting, from the moment you step off the plane. The first thing that hits you is how it smells. The smell can be one of the most memorable parts and stick with you forever. Once you get out and start to feel like you've finally landed, everything around you hits you all at once, the smells, the sounds, the sights, everything new that you do, is all part of this honeymoon phase.

But as its name implies, the honeymoon phase is just that, a phase. Gradually you become more familiar with your surroundings. You stop noticing the smells as you grow used to them and the landscape begins to become familiar. All the sounds that were overwhelming and new become normal and routine. (For example, the novelty of hearing people speaking German in Germany begins to wear off quite quickly.)

And now we come to how this applies to me. I've been here for 18 days, and have a week of class under my belt now, and everything that was exciting, difficult, or even frustrating, are becoming routine, or at the very least less difficult. And in the end all these things are good, this is how we adapt to new situations. It's all part of a multiple step process that takes time.

Whereas this is relevant in and of itself, settling into a routine. The bigger objective is to have an idea of what is going on now and how that feels, so that you can be as well informed as possible for what comes next, after everything stops being exciting and becomes routine, because what comes next is not always easy and quite often the most difficult part of being in culture shock. But as I mentioned before, this whole thing is a process and the difficult stage of accepting routine and being happy with your surroundings, dealing with the possibility of homesickness is just one step in the entire process. It too will pass, come hell or high water. Regardless, I will continue to keep you updated on all that is my life here in Germany, the good, the bad, and the mundane.

And, once again, on a completely different note, I suppose this is the part of the post where I put up more pictures to help give you a better overview and impression of what my life here is like. The first picture is of the market in the center of town where there's always a lot going on. Directly across from the market is the city hall, which is the pink building in the second picture.

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