Sunday, February 17, 2013

Holy Culture Shock, Batman!

There are two questions I've been asked a lot lately; 

"Why did you leave Portugal?" and "What made you move back to Amsterdam?"

There is not one simple answer to these questions, living in Portugal for a year was an incredible experience full of ups and downs, it taught me many things especially things about myself, it gave me a thicker skin when it came to certain social situations, it gave me the opportunity to experience the frustrations and joys of a completely a different type of lifestyle and culture, and to wake up every morning to a gorgeous sunrise over the sea, none of this will be forgotten but what stands out the most is Culture shock and just how real it actually is.

cul·ture shock

The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

Experiencing this came as a surprise because after living in several countries and traveling extensively I not only (very naively) believed it was something that I was immune to - me? culture shock? Yea right, I'm super cosmopolitan girl! but a part of me also believed it only happened to a select group of people who enjoyed a little whinge every now and then, people who like to compare everything to their home country, people who never really appreciated or wanted to give any other way of life a chance. But I realized culture shock is more than an attitude problem and it can hit you no matter how much of a seasoned traveler or how open minded you are. And culture shock hit me hard, I vividly remember the sunny summer afternoon I decided to read a little about it and found myself ticking off every single symptom, suddenly everything made sense; the constant judging and stereotyping of the locals, the complete and utter preoccupation with my health, the feelings of loneliness, powerlessness, the constant feeling that I was being cheated, overlooked, looked down on.

Things began to look up after this realization and some powerful advice from my husband;

"Whenever you're frustrated about something, rather than judge people, think about and ask yourself why they might do things that way"

The culture shock eventually eased away and I have been left with a longing to understand, explore, see, taste and experience more of this amazing country, but as far as living goes Amsterdam is where we belong in this stage of our lives, Portugal was an awesome, crazy ride for a year but it feels good to be back in lovely Amsterdam. 

1 comment:

Invader_Stu said...

I still suffer from culture shock at times even ten years later but it's always stuff I find amusing.