It occurred to me the other day that I don’t know if I’ve experienced culture shock during my time in Belfast.
Culture shock was very apparent in Japan. For one, the language is different, hence sights, sounds and speech were all affected. Osaka was all hustle and bustle too, so there was a lot to take in.
Moreover, I mostly interacted with the other JETs – so not only did I experience culture shock from coming into contact with the Japanese, I also received a generous dose of it from other foreigners who were trying to come to terms with a new country themselves.
Over here, however, things have been different. The only linguistic challenges have been the accent and certain phrases – the latter I picked up rather easily from E and local colleagues; the former was a steep learning curve that I had to quickly overcome when I took on a job that required a lot of telephone calls with local people.
As for the difference in customs… there aren’t really any that are shocking per se – it’s just that people do things differently here. I may not ‘get’ it or understand why it may be so – but it just is, and is something I have to get used to. For example:
- Why are shoes worn in the house, when said shoes have literally been in shit, pee, dirt and mud? And how can those shoes just go into a handbag?? Yuck!
- How is it that people can eat cold items (e.g. sandwiches) for lunch when it’s so cold outside?
- Why does socialising always have to occur over drinks? What if you don’t want anything to drink, or want to hang out but have no money to spend?
- Also, why do people like to hang out in places were they can’t be heard, like in pubs or clubs? Don’t they get sore throats from all the shouting?
- Doesn’t it bother people to walk in the rain and have their face, clothes and hair get all wet? Don’t they catch a cold afterwards?
See, they’re not at all shocking in any way – just inexplicable.