Wednesday, 01 May 2013

Have you ever experienced culture shock?

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More than discomfort with strange sights, sounds and smells … culture shock arises from not knowing the rules and nuances of everyday interaction. When you’re with people you’re similar to, a good guess can be made at how they will react to a joke, a hug, or a complaint. Thrown into an alien situation, confidence in your assumptions breaks down, leaving you unsure of how to act and talk to connect with others.

An article I read recently by a guy called Bart van Leeuwen made me realise that culture shock doesn’t only exist at the other end of a plane journey. The diversity of our cities, especially, brings it much closer to home. Whenever we interact with people we see as different from us, we can feel the discomfort of culture shock. The uncertainty and even fear of it drives many of us to isolate ourselves from too much difference.

However, Van Leeuwen also talks about the sense of wonder and excitement that can come when you connect with people from different walks of life. He recognises that great places to live tend to be those that celebrate this sense of wonder and excitement.

As we get revved up for a new intake of people on The Challenge programme, it’s good to remember that we aren’t aiming to protect ourselves from the discomfort meeting different people can bring. Instead we want to learn not to fear it but instead enjoy it.

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