Benjamin Saff: Culture Shock


Culture shock is quite a real phenomenon. I was skeptical when first hearing about it and thought I would have a seamless transition into the German culture. It wasn’t exactly as smooth as I thought. Not to worry you though, culture shock is different for different and its extent always varies. The best I can do for you is to describe my experience and the realizations I had upon reflection.
Culture shock for me was the realization that activities which any well-adjusted member of society can do with ease became a challenging mystery. I didn’t think about it until I got here. How the heck do the public transportation systems work? What about mailing packages, and receiving mail, buying groceries, restaurant etiquette and even general socializing norms. Things you take for granted in your home country can sometimes be completely different in your host country. Luckily my host country is Germany and has many similarities to the U.S. Anyway, so when I realized that I had to basically relearn how to function in society, culture shock set in. I couldn’t help but feel a bit stupid and helpless. Everything seemed so confusing and you can’t help but miss your home country where you are a master of your domain.
But fret not, for this is part of the challenge and the fun of your study abroad experience. Starting fresh in a new country, starting fresh in a new foreign language, these are wonderful experiences. Stepping up to the challenge can be a bit intimidating but it becomes easier with the grand realization that you are not alone. In any country it is safe to say that there are always people out there who will gladly help you. Whether that means explaining a bit about the public transportation or just pointing out where to go get postage stamps, you will always learn a bit more everyday if you just ask around. Soon enough you shall find yourself feeling more confident than ever speaking and functioning in a foreign land.
Culture shock for me is the realization that you have a challenge ahead of you. It is the result of being taking out of your comfort zone and placed into a foreign land. The shock can be a bit scary at first but if you accept the challenge and push your limits, you’ll find at the end of the road that it was all worth it.