Culture shock has many faces and the talent to disguise its mean ways with the so-called ‘honeymoon’ stage. According to the general definition of culture shock, there are four stages: the excitement (or honeymoon), the withdrawal, the adjustment and the enthusiasm. Since I have already gone through the first stage but I am still going back and forth among the other stages, I would like to share my experience during my ‘honeymoon’ stage.
Once I was settled in my new English home, things were looking pretty good to me. I had already met my new co-workers at the school where I was going to work, I had learnt which bus to take to go to work and the city, I had found out how to use a dishwasher (which I had only seen in movies), and I had observed how I should wash my clothes in a laundry machine – don’t get me wrong, laundry machines exist in Peru for a long time, but my mother had refused to buy one until recent years…did she wait for her kids to leave home?.
During the first months in England, I was in a state of euphoria and ecstasy. Everything looked marvelous, yes! marvelous!. There was no single negative thought in my mind. Every person and situation that I came across would take me to an exceeding state of mind.
I remember one Sunday afternoon that I was upstairs, organizing my new room, when I heard my landlord’s daughter and her friends playing a Juanes‘ song on their computer. I ran down the stairs as fast as I could and asked them with surprise: ‘How do you know this song?!’. They told me that it was all over the radio and they really liked it. I was touched by the fact that those 12-year-old kids were listening to Latin music, my music. It was a bonding moment between two cultures. They wanted to know the meaning of the song and how to dance to it. Later that day, they made sure I also learnt something, like what ‘chav‘ means and how to use the word ‘wicked’ for almost every sentence. We were a big happy family.
The months that followed my arrival to England, I started to discover a lot of things, all at the same time. My awakening to the ‘old’ continent included sounds, face expressions, rain (a lot of rain!), food, smells, etc. Some of the things I learnt at the very beginning of my stay was that I shouldn’t scream every time I was in a car and saw another one coming on the wrong side of the road (In the UK, people drive on the wrong…I mean…on the left side of the road). I also had to get used to the idea that I couldn’t jump to people’s faces to give them a kiss on the cheek every time I greeted them, as we usually do in Latin America. That was tough, I had all the predisposition to do so but a gentle handshake would always bring me back to reality.
My favorite part of the ‘honeymoon’ stage was traveling. My stay in England was supposed to be a short one (8 months), therefore, I took advantage of all the free time I had to travel around. In the first three months in the UK, I had the luck to visit Oxford, Scotland and London.
The first impression I had of these places is magical; my memory has preserved every moment in a very special place, in that innocent stage of my life. And this is what the ‘honeymoon’ does to you, it makes you see things through a kaleidoscope, full of colorful patterns, with beauty.
WARNING: the first months or years you spent abroad are always the best; our blurry memory can trick us and make us believe that everything back then was perfect.
Enjoy your ‘honeymoon’ stage to the fullest and if you already did, guard those precious moments forever!