Liar Liar: How does Culture Shock end?

On December 10, 2013 by Bethany
Photo by Andrew Lamb

Photo by Andrew Lamb

“What’s it like to come out on the other end of culture shock? (Does it ever end?)”

Culture shock is different for each person. But what is it like coming out of the other end? What an excellent question.

Culture shock is a natural response of any human after spending an extended period of time in another country or culture. As we discussed in a previous post: Liar Liar: What is Culture Shock Like?

But being well prepared for the transition is key. Getting a jump start on your heart and brain and the emotions you will be feeling is invaluable.

I know that every time I go to Haiti, I will become a different woman. I will… future tense. But before I change, I have to go through the hard part: coming home. Knowing this ahead of time, I prepare myself for the transition weeks in advance. Even still, its only after I take time to process in different ways that I begin to feel culturally balanced again.

After I cry, laugh, complain, and ramble on to a stranger at the market.

After I sit cross-legged on my bed at home, willing myself to start talking out loud about how I feel and about what I’ve learned.

After hours of reading in the Word and days of talking to my friends and co-workers about my trips.

Only after time passes, do I start to feel like a normal person again.

A person without as much unrelenting heartache, cultural confusion, or homesickness.

Without the feeling that everyday is an uphill climb.

Without as much loneliness, emptiness or sadness.

It’s still there. The feeling never leaves completely, and for that I’m thankful. It remains as a constant reminder of who I am and where I’ve been. The best way to describe it is that everything gets just a little lighter to carry.

And that’s when I feel it… growth. Its in these moments that you can choose the outcome, allow it to change you for the better or worse.

Growth that is fostered by digging into what I’m struggling with. By looking at the faucet, knowing the water is drinkable and feeling every inch of that emotion. It’s work, to allow yourself to go through it. As Kristen Howerton said in her TEDx talk,

“The only way to work through crappy feelings is to walk through crappy feelings.”

Growth not brought about by the confusion and frustration, but by digesting the root of those emotions. Growth that is spurred on by my experiences and struggles. By allowing Christ to bring me to the other side of it. Through that, I learn new lessons each day. I find out new things about who I am and who I aspire to one day become.

Walmart produce section.

Walmart produce section.

Each time I return home I go through it. The weeks of wondering if I’ll ever feel normal again. If I can work up the courage to go into Walmart. If I can stop being frustrated with people who complain about their dinner at a restaurant. But then, it just happens. I pull into the Walmart parking lot and don’t realize anything is different until I’m picking through the bell peppers and it hits me. I’m doing something normal, something I would’ve done 3 years ago without a second thought.

That’s what the process of growing through culture shock is like for me. It’s like your home is being flooded and, for what seems like an eternity, you can’t find the leak. Until one day, you stumble onto it. Then you pick up, clean up and re-decorate. And it was totally worth the mess.


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