Culture shock

Anybody who has left the United States is familiar with culture shock. When you travel you encounter “the strange” and wacky in the form of toilet oddities, new foods, and different social customs. I’ve felt it before, in varying degrees, but now I’m reaching a point where I consider myself well-travelled and a strange phenomena is taking place wherein my degree of culture shock is significantly less than it has been on previous occasions. I’m growing comfortable outside of my own home and I’d like to think of it as progress toward being a global citizen.

My decrease in culture shock on this trip is helped greatly by this being my third trip to Europe and at the moment my second trip to Amsterdam specifically. I’m quickly adjusting to the people, leaping into the foods, and finding myself utterly unfazed by the toilets (especially when I recall how I struggled with the toilets in China).

However, there are still little details that catch me by surprise. For example, Holland is currently ranked the country with the highest average height. Either they hadn’t yet attained that rating the last time I was here or I simply didn’t notice how that manifested itself in the buildings. This time around, I have observed ways in which the country caters to extreme height, which hasn’t been easy for me considering I fall well within the short category at a petite 5’00”. It’s most obvious in the hotel room with light switches that are put in the wall at just above my eye level- an uncomfortable reach- and shower heads that can be adjusted to comfortably fit a 7’00” man. And yet the stairs in old buildings are very narrow… so did the Dutch people magically grow over the decades? At least this is one episode of culture shock that I can laugh off while I try not to get hit by one of the numerous bicyclists!

Half a week ago in Paris I also had a small dinner time episode of culture shock (Food surprises are surely the most common aspect of culture shock!). I’d had escargot before and I knew I like the French delicacy, so it was with gusto that I ordered it before my meal. But I never imagined that I would be given a strange torture-device-looking-implement and then given a plate of the delicious snails… still in their shells! I used the tools I was given to pull it out, laughing as I did, but the surprise was hard to shake off!

Culture shock in this diminished form has made the welcome shift from causing home-sickness to the role of being amusing. I doubt it will ever really go away, but I’m happy that the adjustment has become easier!

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