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Posts Tagged ‘culture shock’

I’ve seen a few people online commenting that this strange season is subjecting us all to culture shock. So much has changed for everyone – we are all living very different lives to what has been normal for us. Things are so changed for us all. And it reminded me of a post I wrote about moving here to the parish – and some things the Vicar and I learnt when we moved to Kuala Lumpur many years ago.

twintowers

The culture shock I’ve experienced before – moving to different countries and to different cities – has taken much longer to kick in. But I think that being in the same place and yet nothing being the same has compressed the experience. A couple of weeks into lockdown and it no longer feels like a slightly odd holiday. The boys are now fed up of not going to school. And the steep tech learning curve is exhausting, and trying to find new ways of connecting with people isn’t a fun alternative any more, but frustrating and awkward.

So, as in my original reflection on culture shock, I’m reminded that this world is not my home; here I’m a ‘foreigner and exile’ (1 Peter 2:11). Suffering culture shock should make me look to my heavenly home, and focus on the place I really belong. This week we remember those days when the Lord Jesus gave himself for us. He gave up his true home to tread the path to the cross – and on to glory. And so I can stumble along in this strange new world, remembering that whether things are strange or even just ‘normal’ I’m here in exile. My home is now with Christ, because of the cross and the glory he won there for his people.

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Well, obviously I don’t really hate foreign. Or I would be completely bonkers to be a Vicar’s Wife in our multi-cultural parish. I love foreign people, and I loved living and working in foreign lands (the Far East, for nearly six years). But moving somewhere new – and therefore foreign – is hard.

We didnt actually need this when we moved recently

We didn't actually need this when we moved recently

When the Vicar and I first moved to Malaysia (there’s foreign for you), we joined a church with links to Wycliffe Bible Translators. And one day a representative from that organisation came to teach the church about what life was like as a bible translator. The Vicar and I can now only remember one thing we learnt that day (it was a few years ago, mind). We learnt about culture shock, and adjusting to living in a new culture.

The Wycliffe chap told us that there is a common pattern to the experience of the ‘foreigner’ moving to a new culture to live and work:

  • Six to twelve months of ‘honeymoon’ – everything seems new and exciting, the people exotic and the differences to home fascinating.
  • After the honeymoon comes a time when the differences become annoying and hard to live with. This is the period the Vicar and I started calling ‘I Hate Foreign’.
  • And after a couple of years, the differences in culture don’t seem so great and you become adjusted. Your home is no longer ‘foreign’ but home.

So we’re nearly six months into parish life and I confess that I’ve been having a few ‘I Hate Foreign’ moments lately. Our new church is lovely and friendly, but we don’t know folk all that well. The school has been helpful and welcoming, but our old friends know us better.

I know this time will pass and that soon we’ll feel completely at home here. But in the meantime it’s a good reminder to us that our real home is in heaven and that Christians are

aliens and strangers in the world (1 Peter 2v11)

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