Culture Shock

Moving into a new house, unpacking all of my stuff into random new places, remembering tons of stuff I forgot back in Buies Creek, dealing with not having water one morning and having a crazy dog on every morning, missing my friends, spending weeks trying to re-adjust to the changing environment around me and all the while trying desperately to do what was really important and not fall into random idleness…who would have thought a “culture shock” would be so rough? Now, wait ‘til I tell you about Costa Rica!

It’s true living in another culture can be a challenge (especially one that speaks little-to-no English) but as I have found out over the last month, coming back home can prove to be just as challenging. A lot of it has to do with my changing family situation (e.g. my sister graduating, our family selling our house and moving into a new place) but it is also the condition of anyone who has questioned the society that they live in and the values that they hold so dear.

Costa Rica is a place of much lesser means than the United States and that shows itself in not only the government infrastructure but the livelihood of its people as well. Coming back to America after seven weeks abroad I was able to see what we hold dear here in our country and compare it to what Costa Ricans hold dear in theirs. Even on the plane flight back it became quickly apparent to me: we love technology, popularity, power, wealth and safety, principles, community and relationships. Costa Ricans love relationships, community and principles, safety, wealth, power, popularity and technology. It isn’t so much that we care about different things, we just seem to care about them in a different order. This could just be a result of the resources and wealth we have available to us here, but regardless I started thinking a lot about what is important to us here and why.

While in Costa Rica, I told my host family that in America I might talk to a hundred people a day: through e-mail, websites, phone conversations, letters and what’s that other one…oh yeah, face-to-face meetings. That really blew them away and now that I think about it myself, it blows me away too. What are we achieving by moving so fast and talking so quick, running through errands, speeding in cars and shooting off conversations by the second? I think we want effectiveness and I’d say we get it, but what we might miss in the mix are all of the things we really wanted all along: meaningful relationships, community and lives based on principle.

I certainly experienced culture shock when I arrived in Costa Rica and that really helped me to understand the country’s environment and the way of life of its people. However, now that I am back in the United States, I think I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for my life here and I have been able to experience a second culture shock that is equally valuable to me. It’s funny to think a change of culture would take place in the country you’ve always lived, but that is exactly what has happened to me and I am very glad it has.