Shock (the funny, the serious, and the adjustment to both)

Whenever one is heading to a new country, particularly to live, you’re prepared for culture shock.  Life in this other country will be different!  The way things are done is different, language could be different, expectations are different, values are different.  One travels through culture shock by being in the culture and studying the culture but both of these things take time.  Time, time, and more time and the “shock” becomes less as you adjust.

Once one has been out of their home culture and then returns a new shock is experienced.  This one may or may not be expected.  Dan and I have been traveling and working in mission circles long enough we know about this.  We prepare for it, as best one can prepare, and we’ve experienced it.  We remind ourselves, particularly when we’ve just arrived back that when stress seems high that some of it is part of our adjustment.

It’s always funny what shocks us, however.    Years ago, after returning from southeast Asia it was the cross-walks.  Why would I stand on a corner and wait for a light to turn green telling me I could cross when not a single car was in sight?  For that matter why would I even bother to be at the corner when I was used to dodging an unimaginable number of cars across 4 true lanes of traffic which often had become 6 or 7 lanes?  During our last furlough (2008) the kids were amazed by water fountains, horrified by automatic flushing toilets and the vastness of the cereal aisle at the grocery store.

For this furlough we’ve now been back in the States for 25 days.  So far most of the shocks/surprises have been on the lighter side (many are things we know but had forgotten or gotten so used to another way that they’re strange).  Anyway we thought you might be interested to know (and laugh at) some of our “shocks.”

  • The vast number of televisions – both in restaurants (one restaurant we ate in had over 20) and in homes.
  • Shoes are a must in all restaurants and stores.
  • House construction style  . . . we’re so used to cinder block and poured concrete construction that stick construction looks so funny (and fragile).
  • THE EGGS ARE WHITE!!!
  • Water fountains still make the list (little machines that spit out drinkable water).
  • Language terms – even as we speak English much of our English has British English influence so the kids have been confused a few times by terms and I’m sure I’ve confused others with my language choice.   What does “sort it out” mean or refer to in your mind?
  • The quickness of food service (not just fast food)  but even at a sit down restaurant (a quick meal in Nampula will still take close to an hour to prepare your food).    The pressure I, Robin, feel as we walk into an “order at the counter restaurant” when I’m unfamiliar with the menu and the line is accumulating behind me . . .
  • mandatory car and booster seats for Jeremiah and Esperansa  (yes we confess they only use the vehicle’s seatbelts for both of them in Mozambique).
  • The over abundance of choice in any and all stores!!  The vast number of stores and restaurants!
  • It’s been way too cold for April / May!!  The lack of being able to know from one day to the next  whether it’s appropriate for shorts or pants or a sweater is rather stressful (and makes packing difficult).
  • commercials (we don’t watch television but rather use our TV to only watch videos so commercials are an unknown to our children and forgotten by us).

I’m sure there will be more adjustments, particularly come fall when the kids begin school in America for the first time ever, but we’re doing well and despite the “shocks” or adjustments are thoroughly enjoying the visit time we’ve had with family and friends.

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