One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

From cultural shock to reverse cultural shock; the needs for cultural shock absorbers

During pre-departure orientation, I was warned of expected
cultural shocks. On thanksgiving, the first question that one of the
hosts asked me was, “Are you culturally shocked?”. These warnings
were making me look for cultural shocks. I found that the so called
cultural shock is not exclusive property of exposure to new culture
by travel. Cultural shocks happen within cultures. Technology,
media and new generation bring new ideas that are not
“appropriate” to existing cultural practices and they shock a lot of
people. Now, after two years of my stay at US, when I am preparing
myself for a two months break to go home, I am again warned of
“reverse cultural shocks”. It makes me think that, if I have to go
through series of forward and reverse cultural shocks then I might
need “cultural shock absorbers” to endure the shocks.
Cultures differ with each other on the basis of what is “appropriate”
and what is “inappropriate”. By walking across the cultures we see
the narrowing down and broadening of interpretations of these two
concepts. We are inclined to broaden interpretations of
“appropriate” to include all things that are part of our culture and
narrow down interpretations of “inappropriate” to exclude
everything that is not part of our culture. Cultural shock happens
when we see our “appropriate” is “inappropriate” in another
culture and vice versa. When we enter to a foreign country the
excitements of new things occupy us, that is called “honey moon”
stage but once you finish the honey, what remains is “moon” that
you have to adapt. Of course it is not poetic moon but it is real
cultural moon. (You can read about phases of cultural shock on

The culture we born and grow in is our “comfort zone” and we feel
comfortable in because we are familiar with. Once we are in new
culture, we feel “uncomfortable” by being out of our “comfort
zone”. Being “uncomfortable” is the core of the cultural shock.
Being uncomfortable is good as it make us out of peer pressure. In
our own culture, peer pressure do not let us know fully know, “who
we are?”. Parents, relatives, friends and society are telling you,
what is “appropriate” and what is “inappropriate”. This is a
“paradigm” that influence and limit the approach of our reasoning
power. Once we are out of peer pressure we get a chance to make
new choices and to think, how to accommodate and balance to our
new environment. I think this transitional stage is key because soon
you are under new peer pressures.
It seems like a non-ending cycles of peer pressures. My experience is
saying that once you grow out of peer pressures, they will no more
influence you a lot. When we are under peer pressure, our focus is
on ourselves. We try to learn what is appropriate and what is not.
When we focus on ourselves, we do not see other people. Once we
got relaxed by learning and realizing that it is the narrowing and
broadening of the interpretation of “appropriate” and
“inappropriate” that creates differences then we are in control of
things. You do what you like or what you think is easy to do. You
just need to broaden your interpretation of “appropriate” to include
yourself in it. As there are many practicing and conflicting
interoperations so no one is the authority.
Once we reach this point, our focus shifts from ourselves to others.
Now you can see clearly what other people do under peer pressures
or struggling to fit them in a particular interpretation of
“appropriate”. You will get amused by your ability of seeing how
these interpretations are steering the behaviors and lives of people.
This is fun stage once you come out of peer pressures and cultural
shocks. I think it is the “cultural shock absorber” so I am sure that
I am not going to have a reverse cultural shock.

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