On culture shock

We’re reaching that point of the semester when people start experiencing culture shock.

But not me!

And I’m not going to, because I already experienced culture shock.

For most people placed in a new culture, culture shock doesn’t set in until roughly three months after arriving. Before that is the honeymoon period, in which everything in the new country is COOL and AWESOME.

I had no honeymoon period. Immediately upon entering Norway, I went right into a downward spiral of despair and doubt.

I chalk this up to a few factors.

First, I was completely exhausted after twelve hours of flying with very little sleep. I was past the point of being able to cope with challenges and anything new.

Second, I was completely alone. Some people from my university who came to Oslo had relatives or friends to help them navigate the city and help them feel less alone. I had nobody. I didn’t even have my fellow university mates since I was the first from my university to arrive in Oslo. I had to figure out everything by myself. Alone. In a different country. It wasn’t until arriving in Oslo that I realized with sudden clarity how very, very alone I was, and how far away all my friends and family were. Homesickness hit me fiercely and I started to question my decision in coming to Oslo. I wanted nothing more than to hop a plane and head right back to the US.

Third, this was my first time being out of the country. Okay, technically not, since I have been to Canada twice. The thing is though, Canada is so much like the US (at least the parts I’ve been to) that it wasn’t really different. I didn’t feel like I was in a different country, and I knew the US was just some miles south of me. Being in Norway, however? Completely, completely different. Experiencing anything new and different is always a bit scary, especially if you’re alone and exhausted.

Fourth, I was not prepared at all to step off that plane into a different country. I should have done more research before leaving the US. I knew that people in Norway speak Norwegian, but that most also speak English. Great, excellent, since I can’t speak Norwegian. Learning that, I forgot about it until I got into Norway. And that was when I discovered that everything is in Norwegian–all signs, all T-bane announcements, everything. This never occurred to me. I don’t know what I was thinking; I guess I probably just figured that since most Norwegians speak English things would be in English, but that was a stupid assumption. Obviously since Norwegian is their first and native language, it’s going to be the language they use for everything. That would be nice to realize beforehand, because coming into the country and discovering that was quite a shock to the senses. It also scared the crap out of me, because it meant that I couldn’t understand any written signs.

The culture shock was the worst the first two days I was in the country. At that point, I really wanted to go back home. It was a constant struggle to deal with normal, ordinary things–things that I wouldn’t have had any problem doing back home. For example, buying groceries. It becomes much harder when you can’t read any of the labels. I just wanted everything to be how I was used to it. I wanted people to speak English to me from the onset of conversations, I wanted food labels to be in English, and I wanted everything to not be horrendously expensive.

After those two days, people from my university started arriving. We met up and explored Oslo together, and I started feeling less alone. That helped considerably, as I knew it would. Then buddy week started and I had even more friends, and life was back to normal!

Well, almost.

It’s taken me until about now to adjust to the different currency and the absurd prices. I still convert things to dollars but I find myself doing it less often now. In addition, I have finally stopped comparing the price of things in Norway to what it would cost in the US. Before I would say, “Oh, that’s so much more expensive than what it is in the US, I’m not going to buy it,” but now I say, “Oh, 28 kroner? Meh… okay.” I no longer consider how much cheaper things are in the US to be a factor in what I buy. I’ve realized that it’s going to be more expensive, so if I really want it, I just buy it.

So, life is basically back to normal!

Except for the crazy amount of travelling. I haven’t updated in a few days because I’ve been planning out my spring break trip. I, of course, can’t just stay in one city for the whole of the spring break. That would make planning far too easy! No, instead, I have to travel all around a country.

It’s going to be so much fun, and I’m really looking forward to it, but it’s taken me HOURS to plan everything out–where I’m staying, what trains I’m taking, what times I’ll need to leave, where I all want to go, etc. It’s not much fun, admittedly, just because it is so putzy. But it will all be worth it in the end because I am going to have an absolute blast!

If I don’t die of travel exhaustion. Which is looking more and more likely.

Unlike previous travels, I will be announcing which country (actually I just realized I’m travelling to two countries, oops haha) I’m travelling to before I leave since I will be gone for so long and since I’m so excited. So, any guesses as to where I’ll be going? 🙂



2 responses to “On culture shock

  1. We had the same experience when we moved to Amsterdam! Of course all the food is labled in Dutch and all the announcements on the public transport are in Dutch…duh….why didn’t we think of that??? Oh well, we survived.

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