Decisions! Curse and blessing at the same time. Something you cannot avoid after becoming an adult. I come from a very unique family. When I say unique I mean different than my friends’ families. My parents were always supportive of what me and my sister decided during the course of our career and respected our personal choices. This is rare in a country where most of the parents burden their children with many; sometimes even unrealistic expectations. Once I finished my high school I realized I have complete freedom to choose whatever career I want to pursue and I was very happy to know that. But soon got to know that this freedom is in fact a huge responsibility. If anything goes wrong it is going to be because of my own decisions. I chose a career in language which was inspired by my sister’s career. Over the period of time I made several choices which helped me grow. I chose to leave the comfort of my hometown and experienced the hostel life. Chose rather to work part time than being in the campus. In short, during my student life I got wonderful opportunities to widen my horizon. Little did I know the strength which I gathered was going to be very handy in future.
I pursued Japanese Language as my major and completed my Masters. While learning the language I also had the privilege to visit Japan few times. The wonderfully designed courses at my alma mater educated us not only with the language aspect but also the culture and the people. I remember day dreaming about visiting Japan and even talking enthusiastically with friends. Even the tiniest gift from this country used to make me so happy. As the time passed, me and my classmates got to see many of our seniors visiting Japan. We always observed the change in them. Some of them, particularly who visited for not more than a year; would upload hundreds of pictures on Facebook. Calling the “visit” their greatest achievement. Conversation with these celebrities used to be exhausting as it revolved just around their Japan visit. They would be nostalgic about pretty much everything related to Japan once they were back. We used to make fun of this “jubilant nostalgia” but I secretly feared, am I also going to be one of them if I ever get an opportunity to visit Japan for long term.
After about a year of working in India I did get a chance to come here. And my parents, like always supported my decision. This was July 23rd, 2015 … Exactly two years back from today. The first two or three months I was on cloud nine … Literally! Everything was so intriguing. Since I knew the language it was easy for me to roam around. After these three months I remember just breaking and everything just changed. Nothing would make me happy. I was really confused why this is happening since I always wanted to experience Japan. This is when I started reading about culture shock. That cleared many of my queries. Even unraveled the truth behind jubilant nostalgia. This is when I actually felt bad for making fun of few people.
The culture shock or cultural adaptation mainly implies to those who start living in a different country. Culture shock is defined as “The tension people from one culture experience when they must adapt to the ways of a new culture.” Basically, this is an adaption process in which your mind and body try to be comfortable in both of your “homes”. With me, the process was comparatively easier as I was familiar with the language. This has mainly four phases.
Honeymoon phase! Oh who can forget that. I remember carrying my camera everywhere. clicking pictures even at the supermarket. I would roam around city even after I finished my work. I even learnt to eat fish and pork. I was a vegetarian till I came here. In short I was euphoric.
Then there was culture shock. Things which intrigued me initially changed into my nightmares … “Why do I need to keep my phone on silent mode in the train?” “Oh God! The Japanese squat toilets are weird” “Need more spices … Real spices in my curry”… I remember going to the Indian restaurants deliberately and chatting in Hindi with the manager just for comfort.
Then there was adjustment or negotiation phase. This was long and gradual. This was the time when I actually made friends in Japan. I started hiking and met many new people. All of them had different backgrounds and I started observing how they’ve been surviving here and made the necessary changes in my routine. I started talking to my parents and my sister more often than before and cooking became part of my everyday routine. I became more familiar with different aspects. For me, this phase was longer than the graph. I took good six seven months to adjust.
But soon after that I was comfortable in Japan. As much as I was in India. I got to know this when I visited India on a short trip. As much as I was excited to visit, when I came back I had that “returning home” feeling.
And by the time I completed a year and a half I had experienced all four seasons and all four of these stages.
There are several benefits of experiencing a culture shock.
- It will shape your personality significantly by teaching you to trust your gut.
- You learn to survive during the periods of loneliness and unfamiliarity and develop much thicker skin.
- You meet new people who have different perspectives, backgrounds and life experiences. It shapes you into a more open-minded individual.
- You get to see and experience things you may not otherwise see.
- It will teach you that a world is a small place and despite all the differences we are all interconnected. All of us share similar aspirations; to find love, enjoy what we do, protect our families and loved ones and earn a good living.
So, if you have the opportunity to explore a whole new world, don’t hesitate it will only be beneficial in many different ways. And if you are going through the heartbreak after the honeymoon, hang in there good things are worth the wait. 🙂