Embrace culture shock

Arpan Yagnik and Arpan Yagnik

Culture shock is an experience that an individual goes through when exposed to an unfamiliar culture. It happens with everyone at some point in life.

It is quite common in most circumstances.

However, an example of an intense culture shock would be immigration to a different country or a social ecosystem.

Marriages can also be a reason for culture shock.

Reverse culture shock is what an individual experiences when he or she returns to the original culture or social ecosystem after a considerable amount of stay in the different environment.

I argue that culture and reverse culture shock is heuristic.

The differences that we observe are actually the openings that enable us to adjust and empower us in understanding different cultures and social settings.

I came to the U.S. in August 2010 from India.

The new social environment of the states ceaselessly kept presenting challenges.

I have done alright in internalizing the culture and acclimatizing to life here without compromising my originality. However, food is one aspect of the culture shock that took the longest to adjust.

Coming from a vegetarian and a meat-free background, adjusting to the meat inundated surroundings was a challenge.

However, a closer inspection allowed me to find abundant vegetarian food amidst the meaty food.

Instead of missing Indian food, I realized that managing vegetarian food is not a substantial challenge anymore.

After three and a half years, I have finally managed to not come back hungry after going out for dinner.

Moving onto reverse culture shock, I experienced it intensely during my visit back home. I have to admit that the reverse culture shock was more frustrating and bothersome than the culture shock.

What bothered me the most is the dissimilarity in the time orientation. In spite of being from a polychronistic culture, I did not face difficulties adjusting to the monochronistic life in the states.

But it was difficult to transition back into the polychronistic system of my homeland.

The understanding of time is so lackadaisical that is impossible to maintain a schedule.

The unenthusiastic understanding comes with sheer lack of regret on being late, and a comment suggesting that the one being on time is a fool and has nothing better to do with his time.

This aspect of reverse culture shock was really bothersome, and it made my stay and interactions back home difficult and unpleasant.

Another aspect of reverse culture shock, which I experienced, has to do with the following of the traffic rules. It is universal known in every country with roads and infrastructure that red means stop. Nonetheless, I uncovered another understanding of red, which is ‘check for police and decide accordingly.’

The drivers will scan the surrounding area to make sure the traffic constable is not around and without further ado they dash away.

Surprisingly, this does not result in frequent accidents because everyone is aware of the dysfunctionality in the system, and therefore are cautious and aware.

I had never seen my country from this perspective. That is the reason why I believe reverse culture shock is heuristic.

I have lived in the same system for 25 years without realizing the extent or the effect of the dysfunction on the lives of the general population.

It was due to the reverse culture shock that enabled me to observe and learn the dysfunctionalities.

I also want to add that culture and reverse culture shock are not just tools for finding the loopholes in a social system and criticizing it.

They are also an excellent lens that allows us to see the inherent good of a system that was earlier invisible.

After living in Bowling Green, I am so appreciative of the public transport system back in India and the comfort it brings to my life.

Embracing culture shock due to its heuristic nature is a good strategy.

Also, embracing culture shock will assist in acclimatizing better and faster and eschewing or succumbing to culture shock will only make adjusting difficult.

Respond to Arpan at

[email protected]