Culture Shock

July 12, 2011


Culture shock  [mass noun]
the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
(Oxford Dictionary)

I believe I am experience classic phases of culture shock.  Where I would have hoped that I was open minded to the dominant culture here, I am (as I’m sure many have picked up on) struggling to come with terms with the logic of many things that I see and hear.  I’ve been raised in a secular country and I’m finding the religious aspects and the implications of this on daily life here harder to accept than I thought I would.

Negotiation phase
… Excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one’s cultural attitude.

I am trying very hard not to judge by my own western standards, and reminding myself that my culture is different, not superior, and it’s hard – it is all I have to bring to the table.

Souk Porter Poses for a Pic.

The difference in cultural references amuses me – you realise how much of who you are is steeped in media references – I’m meeting people who don’t know To Kill a Mocking Bird or The Wizard of Oz!   I have a colleague who is the spitting image of Victor Kiriakis from Days of Our Lives and I can not share this with anyone!  I don’t intend for this to sound patronizing – I don’t have knowledge of Arabic popular culture – but it does bring a smile to my face I try to explain what ‘page 3’ means.

Hardware Shops in the Souk

I seriously thought I was going loopy earlier this week when I keep having flashbacks to more hedonistic times and events.  I was at work and literally laughing out loud as I remembered bizarre and inappropriate vignettes of a former life.  For those of you that get the references they included being in The Dome, Girlesque at The Imperial, Mardi Grass in  Nimbin, jumping around to The Stone Roses (tracks – not live) in underground basement bars in Kings Cross – all during a work day.

I do remember going through a similar phase in the UK – but being English speaking you assimilate quicker and slip into the dominant culture with greater ease.  After six years of the Beeb (I have yet to drop 6Music for JJJ) – here I am forced to go seeking news and entertainment and I am rediscovering my Australianess – tuning into the ABC and catching up on TV, music and current affairs.  I somehow feel more Australian here than I ever did in the UK and it’s very nice.   It reinforces what I miss, appreciate and love about home and our national psyche.  If absence makes the heart grow fonder then I am very smitten.

Women in the Souk

So, if the research is correct and I am going through text book ‘culture shock’ then this phase will pass, I will adjust and land on the other side a more rounded individual with a better understanding and acceptance of Islam and the Gulf States.

If not then I just come home.

Home - Bellinger River

Time to talk of the weather   There had been two days to recall that were seriously vile – sandstorms, humidity and intense heat (akin to being in a scratchy 40deg London fog) but overall the heat had not bothered me.  I would have said – it’s hot,  but as yet I am yet to feel overwhelmed by it. However this week the humidity kicked in – there was a noticeable difference in the quality of air and not ever having suffered from asthma I found that my breathing was impaired.  The next two months will the worse weather wise – and it hasn’t dropped below 45deg since my return in May.

Setting Sun - view from bedroom

In saying this I am permanently in air con – from the house, to the car, to work.  I am wearing a hat when in the sun and not sunbaking or spending too long out there – I much prefer this to an English winter – when I think to last December – brrrrrrr – but let’s check that notion mid September shall we.


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