I have culture shock.

1 October 2009

Yes, I think it’s true. I suffer from culture shock. I read about it on the internet and I can safely say my honeymoon period with Lyon is coming to an end. Although I will certainly not sink into deep depression, there are some things that I simply do not like and my pink shades are off for the moment. Apparently, when you are exposed to a new and foreign culture, or in fact, return to your own culture after being exposed to a different culture, you are in for a culture shock. Some researchers hypothesize that you undergo a ‘W’ or ‘U’-curve like adjustment during the first year in a new culture. From the initial high, the individuals’ evaluation becomes less positive, and after adjustment has taken place, the individual is quite happy again in the new environment. These are just two hypotheses, much more interesting stuff about culture shock can be found in a book by Furnham and Bochner called ‘Culture shock: psychological reactions to unfamiliar environments’ (1986).  But back to what I was going to say. Yes, I find the following things frustrating:

1. I can’t talk to people properly.

Very frustrating for me, I like to chat to people and get annoyed with myself for not knowing enough French to converse fluently.  This is so important if you try to get your bearings in a new culture. When you move to a new place, for a while you lose your footing and you feel like you are in freefall. For me, finding my footing here is difficult if I can’t speak French. I know this will improve with time, but I don’t think patience is one of my major character traits.

2. Lucy’s swimming class is rubbish!

Sounds minor, but yesterday I was shocked to see that Lucy’s swimming technique (which needs improvement) was one of the most advanced in her new swimming course. She is now swimming with 12-year olds and seems to be the only one who can breath correctly while crawling. She doesn’t mind, she got a good workout, but somehow I do not see her thriving there. Also, there was a tiny girl in another group who wasn’t able to swim, who was really scared and who was made to get into the pool by the instructors. When she started to panic and scream, the instructors ordered all parents to leave the poolside. I stayed anyway, I can always pretend not to understand. I think this is a very weird teaching technique and I do not agree with it. Aaaargh, someone give me Windsor Swimming club back. The best thing about the swimming lessons is: We are stuck with this course until next year. Apparently you can only book courses in September. Which brings me swiftly to point

3: Bureaucracy.

Do I need to expand? I don’t think so.

4: I don’t like Vespa drivers on cycle paths, it’s silly, noisy and dangerous. And it gets on my nerves.

5: We got a friendly telling off the other day when Lucy was dipping her toes into the Rhone. C’est interdit!!! I don’t give a …. we still dip our toes. Just we now check that there is no police are around.

6: The public transport strike.

People get tired of it, even me,  although we are not even directly affected by it. But people are anxious about travelling and we have heard that this may carry on for three months.

Last, but definitely not least:

7: French toilets.

Particularly the public ones in parks are absolutely dreadful. The children also complain about the toilets at school. Ask Lucy what she misses about Swinley and she will tell you: ‘Her friends and the toilets.’

Right, I think I am running out of things to complain about here. May be it’s only a minor culture shock for me. And, something very sweet happened today. I was on the playground with Lucy and suddenly this tiny 18 months old girlie comes up to me. She is smiling and munching away on a chocolate biscuit. She insists on sitting on my knee. I obliged and she was cuddling up to me, as if she knew me. Her dad came, feeling awkward and being apologetic. When he was trying to remove little Lou from my lap, she started screaming! He finally managed to lure her away with some sort of sugary drink, but five minutes later she was back, putting on the ‘I am such a poor little girlie, please please pick me up’ show and was back on my knee in no time. She was happily sitting there until home time and her dad had a hard time putting her in her bike seat, because little Lou still wanted to be with me.  I had never, never seen this child or her dad before in my life! And I didn’t even look like her mum. Is this strange or what? There must be some sort of connection between me and little Lou that I had been hitherto unaware about. I wonder whether I’ll meet them again sometime. Anyway, she left lovely footprints and chocolate marks on my freshly washed jeans.

I think this sums up my day. Strange and wonderful things happen and I probably just suffer from everyday life rather than culture shock. And only people who are too settled and comfortably numb are safe from it…

One Response to “I have culture shock.”

  1. Sabine Says:

    Oh, I understand you about the difficulty of not being able to talk to people ! It is soooo frustrating !
    And you are right, public toilets in France are rubbish. Ana and I found the worst ones in Carcassonne ! Absolutely horrible. But Pablo hates toilets at Charters as well… And swimming pools are cleaner than in England ( at least, if swimming lessons a re not good) !

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