Re: Culture Shock

John Wingard (jwingard@AG.GOV)
Thu, 2 May 1996 12:12:32 -0600

In response to Holly Swyers message of May 2, I believe the expectations
explanation applies to part of the returning culture shock. Day to day
life in another culture can be quite different than the one from which we
came. As a result, new daily habits are adopted, expectations of
interactions with others are different, etc. I know on my part
(especially after my first experience) I failed to realize how
comfortable I had become in my formerly exotic setting. Those things
that had struck me as odd when I first arrived were now part of my own
daily routine. Upon returning to the U.S., "my culture," I expected it
to fit like a glove. The reality was that, just as I had to alter my
daily life when entering the "exotic culture" I also had to realter it
when I returned, which I hadn't fully appreciated.

To me at least, however, there was another dimension that took
longer to adjust to. That was the graphic realization of how
arbitrary my own culture was. I suddenly found myself looking at thing in a
more detached way, reflecting, for example on how somebody from the other
culture would have responded to a given situation, or how a given
situation would never even have occured. It was also disconcerting
to find values or behaviors I had always taken for granted to
suddenly seem capricious. This dimension of returning culture shock was
the most disturbing, enlightening and longest lasting. And despite all
my training in anthropology prior to my first field experience, I cannot
honestly say I was prepared for that aspect of the "anthropological

John Wingard