Culture Shock

At the intercultural training with the other Leave for Change volunteers, we were invited to introduce ourselves and tell a little bit about who we are and what we will be doing….

…Hi, I’m Maureen and I am from Middleton, NS, population 3,600.  I will be volunteering with a partner organization of GNECC, likely Pamoja Ghana, and will be working in Accra , Ghana, population 3 million….as light laughter rippled quickly through the room, folks were certainly thinking the same thing….culture shock.

I live in a quiet part of the Annapolis Valley, in a house, on about an acre of land, with trees lining my property.  It is very, very quiet when I go to sleep at night, and even as I write this post I hear every noise, which is just the white noise of our appliances.  Accra is a large, cosmopolitan city and I expect it will be crowded, noisy and trees may be less plentiful than we enjoy here.

In Canada, I will leave behind my vegetable garden and will miss the fresh peas this season.  In Accra, I will have new things to try, like plantains.  Not sure if I will be eating fresh peas, and if not, that is OK, I will enjoy some new things.

And, then there is the weather…Accra runs at about 90 degrees farenheit with 85% humidity this time of year, and it cools down to a whopping 75 at night.  Let’s just say, that’s not quite we are used to here in Canada…even if we don’t live in igloos!

With culture shock – like anything else – denial is likely the first step.  So, as I prepare for my travels I keep thinking about how different it will be and visualize how I will successfully navigate this new city and the new culture.  I visualize making friends and sharing meals with them.  The honeymoon phase of this adventure will no doubt be exciting, I will need some strategies to deal with culture shock when it hits, and it will, the only question is when, will I see it coming, and how long will it stick around.

When we immerse ourselves into another culture, whether near or far, we need time to adjust to our surroundings.  Having strategies already in mind will help navigate the culture shock and remind us that different is not good or bad…it’s just different.

Enjoy the day, whereever your travels take you,

Maureen

p.s. Here is a quick link to a post on the topic from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

http://www.voyage.gc.ca/abroad_a-letranger/culture-shock_choc-culturel-eng.asp

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