Sunday, December 18, 2005

Culture Shock n.

A condition of confusion and anxiety affecting a person suddenly exposed to an alien culture or milieu.

A Korean friend asked me a few days ago if I've experienced any culture shock since being in Korea and it made me question my personal experience with the elusive subject of culture shock. Culture shock should be easy for me to describe to someone who has never experienced it; I certainly should have encountered it somewhere along my travels. I should understand it in the way you understand an apple by biting into it, and not merely reading a description of what an apple is. But for a reason unbeknownst to me, I don't. I have experienced "the confusion and anxiety" component, but it has always come to me in terms of reverse culture shock, wondering and waiting in a place I've called home for the last 24 years for my next new taste of the unknown world. My paradoxical comfort zone appears to reside in places unexplored by my senses. Experiencing the world to it's full extent. Meeting passionate people. Enjoying unusual foods that soon become familiar. Watching the sunrise and sunset from a different perspective. Learning a new language. Embracing a different culture. Having intense friendships that can last forever based on a mere brief, chance encounter. Being recipient to the incredible kindness of strangers and doing the same to others. Removing the carapace of comfort to veraciously experience life. That's what it's all about for me and I can't imagine it any other way. Whenever I'm in a new place, my heart beats with excitement and curiousity of the unknown, not anxiety and confusion. I guess Culture Shock is a relative term that I fail to understand simply because I haven't experienced it firsthand. Maybe someday I will encounter an unforeseen attack of culture shock as described above and then I will really know what it's about. Until then, I live on, in the never-ending pursuit of understanding myself in relation to the incredible, diverse world we live in.