Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Together: Helping culture shock

This week, to get myself back into the routine of posting, after all these holidays, I just have a simple Tuesday Topic: How do you respond and help when someone close to you is feeling culture shock? Just listen? Point out that there really are good things about the culture, even when all looks bad? Join in and agree? Or what?

If you have any questions that you would like to discuss here, please send them to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Thanks!


  1. I think there are probably times and places for each of those responses! I have dealt with culture shock in many different seasons and for different reasons, and depending on the cause and where I'm at personally, I need different types of responses. I think a big part is the listening part. I think pointing out the positive can be good as long as we aren't denying the legitimate feelings of shock. I also think relating and agreeing can be good and therapeutic as long as it doesn't turn into tearing down your host culture (which doesn't do anything helpful). When I had just arrived overseas, another thing that helped me was talking to veteran missionaries who could relate but also assure me that it would get better.

  2. I think sympathising with the person is helpful. A friend of mine told me in my first year on the field that it's OK to have a few "I hate (host country) days."

  3. Listening is so important. We need to remember the struggles we had the first years on the field. What helped us get through those culture days? I remember when we moved from Kenya to Tanzania. I assumed that because these are bordering countries it would be pretty much the same. However, there was much to learn and much culture stress as I processed those differences. It had been months into a year-long 12 hour a day, 7 days a week rationing of electricity. Another night had passed of a late night dinner due to no power to bake something that I had prepared for when the power came back on...which was later than expected. The next day I arrived a bit late to a mom's play group and sat down next to two ladies. One asked, "How are you?" That was all it took for the tears to flow. You know what? No one asked me WHAT was wrong. It didn't matter. They just understood that I was dealing with culture stress and needed a safe place to cry. They hugged me and let me cry it out. Afterward it came out about the power. In fact, many of the ladies there that day were frustrated. It was at this point that the discussion went towards choosing joy and changing our expectations. I don't even remember who said what. It was all of us bearing one another's burdens and then encouraging each other. That was almost 10 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. What a great example to me on how to help others through culture shock.

  4. I loved reading these replies. People listening to me definitely helped. I also found, honestly, a native sitting down and explaining the why behind all the different stuff helped me finally jump over the hurdle. It was a rare combo (bilingual native who cared, wanted to explain, and had lived in the USA for a bit so she knew what would be confusing to me without me having to ask), but I thank God for the couple of wonderful people who helped explain the culture and help me jump over the last hurdle.
    Before that--having someone to just listen and let me cry!