Musings Abroad-my Life in Spain: Encounters with Culture Shock

Apartment buildings in Granada Spain (Photo by Anna Groeling).

To-Do List:

  1. Acquire the ability to sleep anywhere (use fellow passengers as reference)
  2. Arrive safely in Spain

Somehow, despite my skepticism, both came true. I could almost hear my own surprise as I called my family.

Yes, I’m safe. I have all my luggage. No, I’m not calling from the hospital. I didn’t trip down an escalator and break my arm. I feel fine. Of course, I love Spain. I flew in as the sun was rising over Madrid.

Culture Shock
The ceiling in the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (Photo by Anna Groeling).

As I recall, I stood in Madrid’s airport looking a bit lost after that conversation. My hyper-alert brain wasn’t sure what to focus on. There was the difference in time and climate, of course, but the language as well. Just now, several travelers kissed their friends on the cheek. And since everyone else is greeting each other with the “dos besos” I don’t know where to look, since watching them seems rude. It would be an invasion of privacy, I suppose. Guess I’ll try to read this advertisement that’s in Spanish instead.

At this point any native English speakers from my plane had dispersed, which forced me to find my own way with what knowledge I had. Yet I didn’t feel extremely panicked or overwhelmed about my situation. Everything just felt a bit different. Before my trip, I knew that the culture shock would be unavoidable. I didn’t realize that I would encounter it as soon as I stepped off the plane.

Culture shock is the emotional disorientation someone experiences when they’re immersed in a new environment. Anyone who lives in a foreign country for an extended time will experience culture shock, although the intensity may differ.

I first understood culture shock as hitting an iceberg (think Titanic). I imagined there would be times of intense discomfort and shock, moments that would scream “oh that’s different!”. Instead I continue to experience it in a series of smaller waves, some which are more noticeable than others. Sometimes an experience with culture shock may be difficult to recognize.

Spain has, and will, continue to challenge and change my concept of culture. Even after I boarded my plane to Granada, I realized that staring at my tuna sandwich wouldn’t magically turn it into chicken. I would just have to eat it. That being said, I should probably set more reasonable goals.

Building in Granada, Spain
Apartment Buildings in Granada, Spain (Photo by Anna Groeling).

To-Do List:

3. If possible, develop magical abilities to turn all seafood into chicken. Maybe even steak, I’m not picky. This may be a long-term goal.

4. In the event #3 cannot be fulfilled, try to eat the seafood. You might like it.




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