Dealing with culture shock is an overwhelming feeling. An environment we have become so accustom to sets the notion of what is considered normal. Culture shock is nothing more than our belief that the new environment we experience is abnormal. But what is normal? Studying the brain over all of these years has taught me a lot about how we tend to perceive our environment. If you think about it, everything we know is shaped by the culture we grow up in. From everyday activities such as speaking to one another, the vocabulary used in order to communicate formalizes a construct of how we see the world.
While living in Japan I learned there are words used that are unfamiliar to the English language. Such words describe the world in a different context. Essentially, due to my lack of knowledge in Japanese, it is easy to say my ability to comprehend such perspective mentally would be quite difficult. This is one example of a culture shock, and when you introduce your brain to foreign concepts, I believe you heighten your ability to grasp new ideas to view the world. I think this is the greatest aspect regarding culture shock. In my opinion, the term carries a stigma for many people, but in reality the term avails to incorporate the positive differences of cultures all throughout the world.
Not only does our perception influence how we view our environment, it also affects how we see ourselves. Culture sets the standard of how an individual should behave. Following social norms is a way of ensuring that we belong. And as long as we continue to live within a particular society, we often push ourselves to do whatever it takes to “fit in”. In the process, our personality conforms as well, making it difficult to distinguish ourselves from the pack. Breaking apart is almost irreversible, because that is the life you only know. But when you travel, and finally experience “culture shock,” you learn new behaviors and attitudes from a society completely different from yours. Soon you realize how different you are, but then notice how much new information you are capable of learning. And for myself, I have learned a great deal over the years.
If you are thinking about settling in Germany or want to leave and study abroad, just go for it! Living in a completely new society is difficult, but only in the beginning. Each day offers a new experience and the opportunity to grasp new ideas. Looking at the world from a different angle sometimes requires a person to engage in a completely different society.
My name is Adonay Gebrehiwot (24) and I am currently pursuing a masters degree in neuroscience at Goethe University. I grew up in the U.S. along with my family who immigrated from Eritrea in the 1980’s. From my writings, I hope to share my experience of what its like growing up in a foreign country