Sunday, May 18, 2014

Oh my God those Fahrenheit! How to cope with a cultural shock phase

In our previous post we talked about the expat wives adjustment stages. I would like to talk about the one I'm an expert in: the cultural shock stage. As it was stated in Marianna's post last week, the cultural shock is a period that follows the honeymoon phase. Yay, the honeymoon phase...the one in which you still feel like on vacation, you walk in the center with your head up in the sky dazzled by the skyscrapers and you stop every time you see a squirrel just to try to take a picture of it while eating a nut.
Once this period is over and you start realizing your new life, you also begin to notice all the things that are different from your home country.
You start realizing the change. How big the change is is determined by the difference from your home country and Philadelphia. Don't worry girls. It is just a cultural shock phase and I'm sure you will be strong enough to come through it unless you have the right spirit and a good dose of humour, too.
Based on my personal experience, here I outline the list of the main "shocks" :
1. groceries shock - you used to go to the supermarket and put in the cart the things you needed in 5 minutes. Now you will find yourself standing in front of the shelves and desperately trying to figure out what can be at least half similar to products you were used to. At the beginning I spent 1 hour or 2 at the supermarket googling the ingredients, types of flour, etc.
2. measurements and degrees - this is a real shock that will not probably disappear in this phase. You knew very well before moving to the US that the sizes were different but dealing with them in the everyday life becomes annoying. While you can learn how to convert pounds or miles, it is almost impossible with Fahrenheit's! So... just get yourself a useful app which converts you everything in a second (I know that this is not a solution and you become a smartphone dependent but makes your cultural shock period easier)
3. happy hour - almost ten years of living in Italy made me feel a little bit strange about the happy hour that starts at 4pm until 7pm. While once I used to drink a cup of espresso and have my "merenda" now I can get a fresh mojito with sugar cane sticks inside (all in all, not that bad as a cultural shock ;)
4. language problem - you might have studied English for years but you might as well come here just to find out that you don't understand a single word. At the cashier, on the bus or even buying a hamburger, don't let yourself down when you have to ask people to repeat what they said (even more than twice). Even if it's still the same English you have studying in your country, you just simply have to get used to the pace and different pronunciation.
5. check rush - this was such a shock for me! As soon as you finish your last bite of your sandwich, a waitress comes and asks you with a ten-teeth smile if you are OK (she kept asking it during your whole dinner time) and if you want anything else. When you say NO she promptly takes the check out of the pocket and adds with an even wider smile: Take your time! No rush!

These are just a few of cultural shocks you might experience. This is not meant to discourage you somehow, just to let you know we all have passed through it (and some of us are still passing through it). It is helpful to know you are not alone in this and it is also helpful to realize the changes and your own "shocks" and convert them in something you can laugh at.
Remember that with fun and laughter many aspects of your life change will appear in a different light.