Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Culture Shock



Just like jet lag, culture shock is an experience that occurs after a long journey to a far-flung location. In the case of culture shock, it's almost always a situation that flares up after the traveler returns home.

A friend of mine in the 70's drove her VW "Thing" (remember them?) to Panama (from Kansas City) and back. She told me that when she crossed the boundary between Mexico and the U.S., on her way home, she was flabbergasted at all the signage - speed limits, directions, stop signs, stop lights, city names, signs with numbers identifying the highway, etc. It was totally overwhelming to her.

When my ex-husband returned from living for a year in India, he thought he was fine - until he encountered a revolving door, that is. He just stood there, staring at it, trying to remember how to use it.

Though I've traveled nowhere, I'm currently experiencing a variety of culture shock that has to do with the changeover of administrations. When I see the American flag, for instance, I am accustomed to recoiling in disgust. Oh, but wait! I'm proud of my country at the moment, for electing Barack Obama. I can reclaim the flag now. Shocking!

Or (as a blogfellow recently commented), when I see the president of the United States on TV, I am used to hitting the remote ASAP so as to avoid hearing even one word he says. But ... not now! Now I listen to the president. I can even understand what he's talking about. Astonishing.

The truth is, travel (in terms of geography, miles, kilometers, landscapes) is not required in order to experience culture shock. When the presidential culture changes as radically as it has for us this year, that change radiates outwards. It's visceral, really disorienting - in a good way, should say. Who knew?


I love the super zoom on my new camera. Do you see the Washington Monument way way in the background, just to the left of the Capitol? Once the trees come into bloom, you won't even be able to see the Capitol from the east edge of Lincoln Park.

28 comments:

lakeviewer said...

Yes, it is a culture shock for most of us now that our president is worth listening to.

Great remarks.

c james. said...

I agree with your point about the blogger quickly jumping for the remote to change the channel. I'd always get a sick feeling in my stomach when that man would show up on TV. And to this day, I still feel like our country and sacred Constitution were hijacked by an administration that ran this country like a war-profits corporation, instead of the Trust that it is meant to be.

lacochran said...

Another great post.

I can relate to the travelers you mention. I can remember going from a camping trip at Omega to a family gathering in Atlantic City. When I got into the casino hotel, I was overwhelmed and cried. It was just such an assault to the senses. I adjusted but it was a shock to be sure.

I continue to be delighted to hear the words "President Obama" on the radio and TV. :)

Greg said...

Love that shot of Ms Bethune, Lincoln, the Capitol, and the Monument! Lincoln Park is one of my favorite DC places; I have a good friend who lives near it (her street leads to it, in fact).

willow said...

I also find myself hanging on every word of our new president with much anticipation.

Reya Mellicker said...

Greg - I live on Tennessee Avenue, a half block from Lincoln Park. If your friend has a dog, I probably know him/her - at least by sight. This is a VERY friendly neighborhood.

Greg said...

(This is a copy of my response to your coment on my blog.)
I'd be delighted to have coffee some time. My friend lives on 12th. No dog, but an adorable little girl named Analia. Oh yes, my friend is Lisa. Familiar?

Joanne said...

Your post got me thinking about culture shock, and I realized I even feel it after returning from a week at a little beach cottage, resuming normal, busy everyday life after time at the sea. The routine everyday seems somehow briefly out-of-place.

A Cuban In London said...

It always happens to me when I come back to the UK from abroad, i.e., my country of origin, Cuba.

Nice post and even nicer pictures.

Greetings from London.

Michelle Stiles said...

Culture shock.
I remember driving back into Texas after traveling Mexico for a long period of time. We almost had to pull off the side of the road inorder to take in the change in scenery. Strretlights, overpasses, interchanges, no one passing on the shoulder....

Reya Mellicker said...

Michelle - My friend said she was so distracted, she almost wrecked her car.

Audrey said...

Hi, Reya, I've discovered you from Bee Drunken. I lived in DC for 5 years so it's nice to see your pictures. I like the part about how we are all listening to the President and how weird that feels. It is.

I get culture shock when I go back to the States and sometimes I can't remember simple words like, Dumpster (skip in the UK) and elavator (lift here). Then I have to describe it to someone to get the word back in my head. Jeesh it can get confusing!

karen said...

that revolving door is a wonderful symbol of that type of culture shock... and the shock of not blasting prev. pres with the remote - i can so relate to that!

Absolutely amazing photo with your super zoom! thanks for that! :-)

Ilena said...

I can so relate about now wanting to listen to the president rather than having that feeling of distaste. Hooray for change! also I loved the mention of the VW Thing, I can't remember seeing or thinking about them in a gazillion years!! (and I loved that car).

Bee said...

I suppose we stop seeing things when we become used to them . . . and then having them re-introduced is an eyes-wide-open experience. We need a whole new cognitive schema for the words "American President" now!

Your pictures really capture the tone of your musings. They seem so clear and sharp . . . and dawning of a new day-ish.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

great photos...and yes another great post.

there's a little something for you at the mouse!

thank you for always giving us something to think about!

Coffee Messiah said...

Oh yeah, on a quick hitting the change channel when gw was shown
; (

and yes, now a president who can complete a sentence and not make you cringe when he attempt to say "anything."

It'll all be even better if they accomplish even a small fix on our desperate country.

By the by, did not mean everyone needed to comment. I do the same. It was really 4 the shy ones ; )

seofirst said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Hear, hear... How true your words. It is like culture shock. I'm from Texas (as you probably know) and have just rejoiced in having our new president. I totally know the feeling when holding the remote. It's it odd that Dubya finally acted decent after Obama was elected president. He seemed almost human. I wonder if he voted for Barack...

You have been given the Superior Scribbler Award. Please go to my website for information on how to post it to your website.

Thanks for your great blog!!! I love it.

Ronda Laveen said...

In the photo, the statues and the monunmets appear to be twin bookends to your trees...a visual construct of culture shock.

James said...

I too would change the channel before the "we interupt this broadcast" note was off, but now I actually look FORWARD and make plans around being home for interviews etc of our new president. I feel like we now have a reason to be hopeful again.

Merle Sneed said...

I do love to hear this President speak.

CJ said...

We always muted the TV when The Shrub was on. I couldn't even stand to hear his voice, let alone the idiotic things he said. It was bad enough the first term, but when he was re-elected, my husband wanted to move out of the country immediately. The only reason we didn't was because of my elderly mother. But we started to explore other places to live and now, even though we can once again be proud of our president, we are considering living abroad just for the adventure.

Mrsupole said...

I liked the one with the sun shining through the trees. I was not sure if it was from in the morning or in the evening. I do realize that when the leaves come back that the sun will no longer shine through, so it is a great picture.

Culture shock is when you live in Panama for three years and then come back to the US. You never realize how much you miss "home" until you are gone for such a long time. Many stories from that time.

Mrsupole said...

Hi Reya,

Was just curious about what there was to visit at http://rootsdown.blogspot.com. I went there and there was nothing on it. It was in a different language. Did I do something wrong when inputing it. Not sure, can you please let me know if I did something wrong or if this is not the right website. Thank you.

PS,
Also want to know if "you" left that message. Not sure if anyone can hijack your name, cause I am not sure if I saw something where someone did that before. God bless.

The Family Julz said...

"When I see the American flag, for instance, I am accustomed to recoiling in disgust. Oh, but wait! I'm proud of my country at the moment, for electing Barack Obama. I can reclaim the flag now."

Amen! When Clinton was elected I was still a little too young and self-centered to actually listen to what he had to say. This is the first time in my adult life I've been proud of the flag, and our President, and care enough about being a world citizen to appreciate what's going on.

Culture shock: I lived in Puerto Rico in a tiny little town for a year where horses were tied to posts on the side of the road, cows were part of the normal daily traffic, and the roads were the size of one-way streets. When I moved back to the states I was overwhelmed by society, in general. It's just so... busy. I long for the simplicity of the third world.

tut-tut said...

That bottom photo is amazing!

Kritter Keeper said...

I hated 'monkey man' and wondered why my husband would want to listen to someone who could not speak in full sentences.