Recently, some of my correspondence and conversations with far-away loved ones included questions about stages of culture shock, homesickness and longings. At first, I was surprised by the inquiries because these issues had never crossed my mind, and so I did not actually respond. I felt certain that my letters and blog and other means of communication were open expressions of my attitudes and ideas. However, the more I thought about the direct questions the more I realized that I wanted to give direct answers. So, the following is a simple statement of where I stand on these topics at this juncture of my journey.
Have I experienced any culture shock? Yes, two out of the 4 or 5 stages. You might say that I have moved from the Honeymoon stage, which states, “like any new experience, there’s a feeling of euphoria when you first arrive to a new country and you’re in awe of the differences you see and experience. You feel excited, stimulated, enriched. During this stage, you still feel close to everything familiar back home” directly into the Independence stage, which is described as follows: You embrace the new culture and see everything in a new, yet realistic light. You feel comfortable, confident, able to make decisions based on your own preferences. You appreciate both the differences and similarities of your new culture. You start to feel at home. The other interim stages of cultural distress or rejection have never occurred to me. This extraordinary experience is something I have wanted for a long time. I am filled with appreciation for the opportunity, and intend to make the most of it.
Am I homesick? No, I am “home-healthy” in that I can feel ‘at home’ here because I am safe and comfortable and know that I am loved no matter what my physical address is. Is there anything I miss? Of course! At the top of the list are family and friends, which can never be replaced by other people in the world! So, I try to maintain my sense of loyalty and connection and share my life with those who allow me to be a part of theirs (just as I did when I lived in the USA).
As for activities or events that I miss, they are simple things for which I have either found or will have to find a suitable substitute. In either case, I shall always cherish the memories of them, for they almost all involve the loved ones of my life. These things that I cannot do here are things like wrapping up in a warm towel straight out of the dryer, running or cruising around ‘The Cove’, wining and dining and socializing at a restaurant bar, going thrift store shopping, doing crafts, completing the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle or making home improvements.
Material objects that are missing from my life here are an entirely different matter, since they can be easily obtained or replaced. Therefore, I don’t really miss anything in particular. I have been the grateful recipient of many care packages that included such items as my specific brand of hair color, my favorite healthy cereal, certain cooking spices, American chewing gum, American formatted CDs, my favorite articles of clothing, and some truly wonderful gifts. Many heartfelt thanks to all of you who have sent your love along in these boxes! I love you and I miss you.