Culture shock is scary, but can help us grow

Toluwalase Solomon , Staff Photographer

When we think about culture shock, we think about frustration, loneliness, homesickness, withdrawal and identity struggles.

Yes, I agree all these feelings are inescapable for an individual who will start basking in the euphoria and reality of a different environment where the beliefs, perceptions and way of life is different from their home country.

My experience in my first three months in the United States almost dampened my spirit, soul and body. I was blaming myself for making the decision of leaving an environment where I was comfortable and relaxed and able to relate to people who share the same beliefs as me.

Sometimes, depression controls my thoughts and suddenly I hallucinate and find myself in social interactions with my folks back home.

I wondered if this was a trap to keep embracing stagnant progressiveness. The concept of this stagnation cages individuals in a certain box that seems like progress, but in the real sense it locks their creativity and ideas in certain boundaries.

Being with people who share the same cultural patterns makes me feel fully loved and cared for, which gives me all the energy to progress in life endeavors.

On the other hand, not stepping out of this “ideal” way of living will only put me in the box that continues to govern my decisions. It is just like sticking to a routine of thoughts, idea and perceptions for 22 years and still expecting to turn it around.

Most times, we fail to recognize the fact that we can unknowingly be enslaved mentally with the way knowledge is imparted to control.

Have you ever thought of the positive effects of culture shock? It is a blessing in disguise only if you make yourself open to accept the change it will bring your way. Living in a foreign country will give you valuable skills and the power to aid your personal journey and development.

Inherently, the human race is disparate which means various countries have differing social and national identities. For example, the way major social identities for a number of western African countries adopted through socialization have significant effects in other areas of the society as well,as including the education sector. A dominant cultural and social identity in West Africa is that young kids must respect the elderly by calling them by special names that signify respect.

This identity has its spiritual functions and blessings attached if they are obeyed because of their core belief. Speaking from the standpoint of a Yoruba man, our culture believes that a child who sticks to that practice will grow greater than the parents.

On the downside, it is misinterpreted when applied in unrealistic and unproductive ways. This belief has blindly led many talented Africans into repeating histories and status quo. This way, most students, including me, have been a victim to a long time ‘container’ that receives information and stores it for use, because I did not speak up when I had something to say in class. I was living in fear to speak because even teachers must be given that same respect. The fear was imposed and a way to control students by issuing punishments and creating social stigmas for students called out for disrespect.

Migrating to the United States completely changed that, even though it is a difficult healing process.  It is time to make a progressive move by weighing between how things are and how they could be.

Finally, the metaphor of the organization as rubber band can always be a guide. Culture shock is the tension that pulls the flexibility of thoughts and decision-making.

There will be enormous growth if an individual is willing to be open to developing the skills to negotiate identities.

After all, there is no such as absolute truth even in those socialized identities that is held onto tightly. In this sense, creating self-knowledge only happens in the outside world.

Toluwalase Solomon is a graduate student in communication studies. He can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].