You haven’t been an expat very long if you haven’t come across the term Culture Shock. It’s spoken of and written about frequently in expat circles. You experience it when your culture bumps against the unfamiliar in the new culture you are now living in. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes the differences can be quite dramatic. I think I have embraced and recoiled in equal amounts over the years. It’s part of life and you deal with it.
I’ve been experiencing quite a few subtle bumps recently. The most recent was at church last weekend. In Copenhagen we attended a Lutheran International church. We had come from a Baptist church in Singapore so the change to a more traditional church was an adjustment. One we embraced and we grew to love the rhythms and traditions that we had not been exposed to before.
So here we are in Melbourne attending an Evangelical church for the first time in many years. While there is a structure in your average Evangelical church it is vastly different to that of a traditional church and I had not thought about it before we walked in. I felt uncomfortable, judgemental and way outside my comfort zone. A week later, I feel very different. I may even eventually fit in. It’s amazing the difference a week, and knowing what to expect, can make.
It has made me think about how many other, not so obvious, places this has been happening. The school yard pops into my mind immediately. The mums at our local school have been sending their children from the very beginning. They have a history with the school that I will never have. I have no understanding of the early years and feel more of an outsider already. This was never an issue previously as the schools we attended had large portions of the school moving in and out. The culture of the school was fluid and everyone understood what it felt like to be a fish out of water. As I bump up against this different culture the recoil, while subtle, is there and I have felt it. Not until now have I been able to identify what it is.
These shocks are neither good nor bad. They are inevitable when change takes place. My hope is that by identifying them I will be able to move past them. Fingers crossed.