This is part of a post that I wrote on November 11, 2011 on my blog, Semkee/Seeds. I still go through the cross cultural confusion and sometimes it takes a while for me to figure out or to sort out situations or problems. I don’t think culture shock ever goes away, it just morphs as you stay longer in a culture.
Living for a long time in Ukraine, and working with three languages, and two cultures can be confusing. One or the other of the cultures dominates the situation I am in. I have to chose to think and react from a specific cultural perspective, either the culture I am living in or my own American cultural expectations and norms. Because all this is going on in my head, sometimes I just can’t process problems or situations quickly. Do I look at a situation from the eyes of an ex pat? An Ukrainian? An American? I try to look at problems from the perspective of my faith which is based on the Bible, but how much of my perspective of the Bible comes from my culture? I always have to be asking myself these questions.
Then there’s the languages. I speak Russian and am to a certain degree thinking in Russian daily. I read in English, I write in English. I can solve basic problems either language but more creative or abstract ideas means I have to translate the concept into English. I also find my brain switching to English if I am in an emotional situation. Sometimes when having conversations in English, my vocabulary and grasp of language feels stilted and I cannot think quickly. I am also dealing with a fair amount of the Ukrainian language which is thrown into the mix. All of the above is not only at times confusing, but sometimes feels just plain weird. Sometimes my brain just wants to shut down.
What’s even weirder is some days I just feel out of sorts and on the outside of life here and on other days I feel totally normal. Some days I want to scarf down a Big Mac and fries at McDonalds and other days I’m craving borscht and salo.
Don’t get me wrong, I love living in another culture and being bi cultural. I like it much more than I thought I would and am humble and thankful for my friends from both cultures who are patient with me when I can’t express myself or understand something. I have to keep reminding myself to remember to slow down and take the time to process problems from two different cultural views, and languages. I don’t think culture shock is going to go away any time soon!