A Shock to Your System
Where did you spend the last five months? I was gallivanting around Italy and the rest of Western Europe pretending to study and take classes. That’s all well and good, but I’m slowly learning, no one really cares all that much about that time you got lost among the canals of Venice. It is time to dive back into the real world, and let me tell you it’s not as refreshing of a plunge as one may think.
Part of being back in the good old United States is dealing with something the experts like to call culture shock. They told me about it when I was heading over to Italy, but I wasn’t expecting it to hit me so hard on the way back.
When you live in one area or region for an extended period of time, you become so used to the way of life and the way people of that area operate. I can say that I had fallen into a nice little groove in the D.C. metropolitan area, and moving over to Italy for a semester definitely shook things up a bit. While I was over there I had to learn how to appreciate a culture that wasn’t always in a rush and relying on fast food. An Italian dinner is many courses and takes nowhere less than three hours. But then comes the reverse culture shock when I got sent back to the States and it’s not normal to spend three hour sipping wine for your lunch break.
I’m very appreciative of my friends and family for being patient with me, because a lot of the symptoms of culture shock include the phrase “well, in Italy we had this,” or “in Europe it’s like that.” I’m sure it must get on their nerves whenever I bring it up, or at this point even open my mouth. But as with any condition, including said culture shock, it’s better to get it all out of your system.
This phenomenon of culture shock does not just apply to those traveling and living on other continents, though. Within our expansive country we don’t even realize that there are shifts in cultural practices based on what region of the United States you are in. Moving from one area, like D.C. to the Northeast, or the West Coast to down south is sure to serve you up a heaping portion of culture shock as well. What’s acceptable in one area is not always going to fly in another. That being said, it does take some time to adjust to these new set of norms, whether it’s from transferring from NYC to LA or from D.C. to Bologna, Italy. It’s important to make the effort to integrate, but not beat yourself up about maintaining the little quirks you picked up at home.