Culture Unshock

By: Orana Velarde

I have been thinking a lot lately about culture shock. So its meant to be a feeling a foreigner gets when they are in a country far and different from their own, a feeling of confusion and of not belonging. I have spent a few days remembering every moment from the day we arrived here in Asia, first in Bangkok then in Luang Prabang, trying to remember a moment when I might have felt that, the sensation of being out of place and of not fitting in. I have come to the conclusion that I actually have not had any kind of culture shock, or at least not in a negative sense. For example the difference in languages is a challenge but I think that´s part of the expat experience, having to communicate with hand gestures and sometimes even with little doodles on a notebook. Its like playing Pictionary, no culture shock there.

To be truly honest, when we first arrived in Luang Prabang I was surprised as to how similar it looked like the Peruvian jungle city of Pucallpa. It gave me a feeling like I had been there before even though it took three airplanes and five days to get to. Laos and the Peruvian jungle are on similar latitudes so even the plants are similar, the weather is similar, and the way the seasons are separated in dry and rainy. How the locals get around in motorbikes, sometimes, entire families on one bike. The strange and unbeknownst foods and flavors, the unrecognizable smells and sounds, all that mixed in with a sensation of having been there before was invigorating, not shocking. The mix of familiar surroundings but with different looking people and the surprise to find the same fruits as back home was mind blowing and delicious.

What I was pleasantly surprised with was finding a store that sold all kinds of foreigner snacks and treats, a store created for exactly those out of placers who are homesick and need to treat their culture shock with English teas and canned chicken soup. I have to admit that I also got myself a jar of peanut butter and some Chamomile tea but not because I needed to treat shock, just because I like them. I was also quite happy with the local marmalade and Matoum tea.

Maybe there is a different rate of culture shock depending on how you came to be in the new and different country you now call home. If like my family and I, the move was out of choice and curiosity, then culture shock is not something that will affect you, the differences are what will feed your imagination. If rather you move your entire family because one of the members got a job overseas and no one in the family has ever left their home country, apart from vacations, then culture shock must be really common.

I am glad that we are of the first variety and that new cultures and experiences will constantly be adding up to our highly fueled adventurous relocations. Maybe we are addicted to culture shock, maybe we seek it to keep going. It’s an exhilarating sensation, to always feel and see and taste new things, to not understand exactly what you are being asked and just smile hoping you´re not making a fool of yourself, and if you are, then so what, everyone is hopefully having a good time.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingOrana Velarde is a Peruvian expat living in Thailand. Blog description: Blog about a Southamerican expat family in Bangkok, Thailand and their adventures with tree kids.
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Contest Comments » There are 9 comments

Elzabeth Vongsaravanh wrote 7 years ago:

Very positive and uplifting for expats who struggle with experiencing culture shock-because obviously they don't have to take it so seriously as some actually do. Yes it should be fun and easy going to experience a different culture, and Orana makes the reader feel exactly WHY! Thanks for sharing this!

Annie wrote 7 years ago:

It's wonderful that you have a store nearby to nix those home food cravings. There's something about comfort food that's good for the soul! And, I agree, making the move overseas as a choice makes a big difference on your outlook - you're more likely to be open and actively searching inquisitively for new experiences. Great outlook, Orana!

Maroe Susti wrote 7 years ago:

I love Orana's blog. Her open mind and avid curiosity for all new things, allows the reader to virtually live and experience her detailed daily excursions. I love the recipes and descriptions of the dishes they are eating. I can even try one - even if I wasn't there.

Katerina wrote 7 years ago:

Beautiful and full of hope and light i Positive feelings and love all around ii Congratulations Orana, LOVE YAiii

Mariella wrote 7 years ago:

Felicitaciones Orana....!! gran aventura .! me puedo imaginar las huellas que esta experiencia esta dejando en todos ustedes, y como esta convirtiendo a tus hijos en ciudadanos del mundo....! Un beso para todos..!

Aquiles wrote 7 years ago:

Seriously..... satiates my Wanderlust!

Chiara Romoli wrote 7 years ago:

mi commento es que es más probable tener un shok cultural cuando pasas de una situación mejor a una peor, y yo considero que Asia es notablemente ¨superior¨a nivel cultural que el Perú. o sea que preveo más shock al regreso en patria, más que llegando allá...no tanto es una cuestión de desarrollo, si no de gusto y culturas milenarias que, si bien el Perú las tiene, no se percibe en la gran mezcla de pueblos que se ha venido a crear actualmente. Laos es una delicadeza total, elegancia y buen gusto, a mi parecer, aunque sea la parte turistica, ok, pero es todo gracia, la construcción de las casas, el cuidado de las terracotas, las flores que adornan, los monjes que pasan por ahí, con sus matices naranjas, marrones, amarillas...en fin. sigue escribiendo Orana, es un buen momento leerte

Sergio wrote 7 years ago:

Ive been culturally unshocked! Thanks orana for pulling me to thaila with every blog entry i read!

Vero wrote 7 years ago:

really well written ! her style is captivating and fun to follow...

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