Alien in a Foreign Land

Did you know that culture shock is a real thing? I didn’t. For me, so-called “culture shock” was an excuse that naive people gave to justify sitting alone in their room and write predictable blogs about missing home.

Hello World. I’m Kate and I’m suffering from culture shock.

I’m not joking.

It is a real thing. I read about it on Wikipedia so now I consider myself a world-class expert on the topic. Sarcasm aside, I was certainly very naive to think that moving to a new country was going to be an easy transition. Indeed I’ve never been to America before, but seriously, how different could it be? It’s only across the pond. We (almost) speak the same language. We (almost) eat the same foods. And we all love the British monarchy (minus miserable republicans who don’t appreciate true love. Long Live Will & Kate). Surely that would be enough to guarantee my flawless transition into American culture? Apparently not. Today I had to face reality: I’m an alien in a very foreign land.

Drawing upon very reliable facts extracted from Wikipedia (give me a break, they had references to legitimate research), I discovered that culture shock consists of four stages: (1) Honeymoon; (2) Negotiation; (3) Adjustment; and (4) Mastery. I recently entered the second phase.

Negotiation

After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety.

– Wikipedia, “Culture Shock”

Coincidently I’ve been in America for three months now. HOW PREDICTABLE. I’m a textbook Wikipedia entry.

Prior to this, everything was perfect. A “honeymoon” one might say. America was a novelty; everything was just like the movies. But it was even better because it was all REAL. The fraternities were real. Pop-Tarts were real. Diners were real. All of it. And it was amazing.

But it didn’t last. The Frat boys were obnoxious. My Pop-Tart broke in half inside the toaster. And I realised that I had to choose between a S’mores milkshake or a double stacked bacon ‘n’ cheese steakburger because there’s no way in hell I can finish both. My “American dream” fizzled out, slowly, but surely. And now I’m here – facing reality – in a country where people keep asking me (a) if my accent is real, (b) if I was in Game of Thrones and, (c) if I was invited to Prince George’s christening. It’s terrifying.

So where do I go from here?

I’m still figuring that out. All I know is that this “negotiation” phase requires me to start re-evaluating some of my unfounded and romanticised assumptions. Of course, before I embarked on this journey I should have done some quite crucial transition preparation. But “should’ve’s” are no use to anyone. Especially someone who is freaking out about the very real situation of being so far away from home, while simultaneously trying to fish a Pop-Tart out of the toaster without starting a fire.

Eventually I’ll ask myself the fundamental questions: Where am I? Why am I here? And how am I going to adjust? But for now, I am quite content/overwhelmed with the realisation I made today. That is, I identified that I was in denial. Culture shock exists. The “pond” which separates Britain and America is not a pond at all. And whoever said American culture was not that different from British culture is a liar. Oh, yes, that was me.

I’m Kate and I’m an alien in a foreign land. It took me three months, but I’ve finally admitted it. First step towards “adjustment” – done.

20131120-021121.jpg

This photo was taken pre-culture shock (I’d only been in America for a week). First of all I’m in a diner. Second of all, I was exposed to American Dining 101: Chips are not chips. Needless to say, I had a pitiful meal. Luckily I ordered a milkshake too, which satisfied my diner experience, and my appetite.