The Shock of Cultural Transformation

My heart has been boiling the whole week with the desire of touching the keyboard and get all what has been trapped inside me since the last time I wrote. I had been very loyal to this blog up until this past month when my reintegration to the American culture brought mixed emotions into my life once again.

I was dying to pour a fountain of words into the cyberspace but the busyness of reestablishing oneself at home and relearning the habit of the children’s activities kept me away from my computer, forcing me to seat back and let things brew inside my head. I guess it wasn’t all that bad that I had to wait to finally get the time to write this, because this time around, I had the chance to live the situation in its different stages before reflecting on it.

Back in April I was worried about how my 2-year-old was going to react when seeing herself back at her home and without all the loving people that she had learned to need while we were in Mexico. I didn’t know if the language or cultural differences were going to be shocking for her and though, she went through a little readjustment the first week, she did astonishingly well. Her cultural metamorphosis was almost painless and the language differences did not bother her at all.

To my surprise, I was the one going through culture shock, having feelings of inadequacy. I did not feel like I fit in. I missed the way of life in my country. The old friends and their proximity. The kisses on the cheek when greeting each other. The touch of the warm Latin American culture on my skin.

I know there are people out there who feel or have felt exactly the way that I do so I hope that this reaches them so they can write back with their experiences, some advice or, at the very least, the comfort of knowing that I’m not the only one. What I’m talking about is that achiness brought by the transformation that one has to endure when crossing international borders and going to our “other world.”

I’m sure that everyone has seen at least a Sci-Fi movie where there is a time portal or something of the like where the character has to cross a sticky mass that looks like jello, which seems to adhere to your skin, to get to a different time or place. That is exactly how I feel when “crossing” between my two worlds -the one in my suburban corner of the US and the one in my busy metropolitan area of Mexico. It is as if when going from one country to the other, a part of me was trapped in that sticky mass leaving the social codes of the other country on its side of the portal.

I remember in college hearing about reverse culture shock. Something that happens when you have been at a host country (in my case the US) for a long period of time embracing it’s culture, and then returning to the home country. The home country is now the one that feels foreign to you. Every time I travel from my home to my birth place, culture shock and reverse culture shock are present. I just don’t know which kind of shock I feel where.

It is confusing and at times painful but simply something that us who live away from our home land have to go through. I am glad that the feelings of inadequacy and not belonging do not linger for long. They are just part of the cultural metamorphosis one must go through to adapt to the new (or not so new) living conditions. As days go by and our local friends show us their care and understanding, the transformation gets easier and we find our place back at our home.

Hopefully next time we jump borders, I am better equipped to build a strong cocoon to protect me from the mental ailments of culture shock.

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