This is the third in a 3-part series. If you haven’t read them yet, you may want to check out Part One and Part Two first. Again, if you’ve experienced — or are experiencing — culture shock yourself, feel free to leave a comment with your two cents. Here are some thoughts on my experiences…
Everybody goes through culture shock when they move to a foreign place. But not everyone goes through the same kind of culture shock.
My experience with culture shock has been mild compared to what a lot of people might go through. Living among and working with fellow-Believers has helped. But in Osaka, there wasn’t as much adapting to do as there in now in Nagoya. There were moments of stress like catching the wrong train and ending up who-knows-where. There was trouble shopping, and other language-related difficulties. And there were times when I just got tired of being a “novelty” or standing out. But in my day-to-day life I could survive without learning Japanese, because my job was English teaching and my friends and co-workers were mostly fellow-expats.
This time is different. I’m definitely more immersed this time, but now I have the advantage of having lived in Japan previously. The main thing that causes culture shock for me is the language barrier: It’s a bit frustrating, even overwhelming, to be surrounded by Japanese and not able to join the conversation. And it feels like in order for the others to include me I have to suddenly become the center of the conversation, which I don’t want; but often it’s either that or feeling left out. Japan is also a more group-oriented society, a place where there’s a right and wrong way to do everything, and a culture where communication is less direct — all of which add to the learning curve.
But when I do face stresses relating to these cultural differences, it’s always an opportunity to learn. Language barriers give me incentive to study Japanese. Doing things the wrong way helps me remember the right way. Dealing with and working through culture shock helps one to understand and relate to the new culture — to acculturate.
And, little by little, God is helping me to do just that.