Monday, December 19, 2011

Culture Shock

Last week was absolutely crazy. I went to a few ILP meetings where they taught us all about what we should expect when we go to the Ukraine. Honestly, it was quite an eye-opener for me. I realized this trip isn't going to just be all easy and fun for me. The biggest thing that I'm currently worried about is that I could go through some hard-core culture shock after the first couple weeks of being there. The culture there will be completely different to America, I won't have any close family or friends near by, hardly anyone will even speak my own language, and I doubt there will be a whole lot that will feel just like home right away to me. 

The ILP people told us about four phases that we'll probably go through while we're there. I've sort of described them below (with some help from my notes and Wikipedia):

Four Phases of Culture Shock
  1. The Honeymoon Phase - During the first few weeks, most people are fascinated by the new culture. They associate with nationals who speak their language, and who are polite to the foreigners. This period is full of observations and new discoveries. 
  2. The Negotiation Phase - After a while, culture differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety, frustration and anger.
  3. The Adjustment Phase - After a while longer, you get used to the new culture and routines are developed. You know what to expect in most situations, and you can have a good attitude towards accepting the culture.  
  4. The Mastery Phase- The culture feels almost like home, you are able to participate fully and comfortably within the culture. It's sad that you will ever have to leave.
Culture shock does seem to be a common experience among travelers. At this point, I am simply afraid of having any of the symptoms of culture shock hit me when I get to Ukraine (depression, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, disorientation, etc). I want to do what I can to prevent  and remedy any sort of home-sickness or culture shock I might have. 

Here's a summary of ways I can prepare and prevent "Culture-shock" when I finally make it to the Ukraine:

Before I go - build my appreciation of the culture.
  • Learn more about the Ukrainian culture.
  • Learn about the language and customs of the Ukraine.
  • Find out about upcoming holidays and learn all I can about them.
When I get there - have a positive attitude about the new culture. 
  • Get to know my host-family and the native people.
  • Find the things that I love about the country.
  • Spend time outside doing things.
  • Talk with other Americans in the Ukraine that are going through the same things as me.

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