Tuesday, February 3, 2009
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.