As I’ve already mentioned, there will be some travel posts mixed in throughout all of this, especially in the upcoming months. Now, most people hear about culture shock and think, “Yeah, yeah that’ll never happen to me.” That’s what I thought, too.
During my time studying abroad in London, my friend and I traveled to Oslo, Norway, and it was a complete accident. As embarrassing as it is, we saw an extremely inexpensive ticket on Ryanair to a city called Oslo and bought it instantly. Instead of researching the city before clicking “Submit,” we had committed ourselves to a long weekend in Norway…not Switzerland, where we thought Oslo was located. Ahem, anyway…
The weeks before the trip, we were amused by the fact that we would be going to Norway, a place neither of us had thought very much about before, to be completely honest. It isn’t the most spoken about country when visiting Europe, and I definitely thought I would’ve been to France or Spain before ever setting foot in Norway. I guess we raised our hopes too high, however, because once we got off of the plane, we immediately had our first encounter with culture shock.
It started out small, and then gradually grew. It wasn’t even the land or country that was the catalyst, but the pepole themselves. I am not judging or placing a title on them at all. We simply did not run into the nicest of people in the beginning, or in the entire first day. This was the first culture, and the only one in my case, where we experienced culture shock. I had heard about it countless times from my study abroad leaders, but after falling in complete love with London and Scotland, I thought that maybe, just maybe, it could have been overrated. Boy, was I wrong. I realize all of the steps of culture shock usually occur over a few weeks or months, but we experienced the entire scheme within four days. For those of you who do not know what stages I am talking about, let me enlighten you…
1. Stage 1 – Excitement:
- In this stage, you are fascinated by everything revolving the culture. You are happy to experience it because you have little to no knowledge of it. It’s new and exciting, and you have a positive outlook on everything. For my friend and I, we had talked about going to Norway so much that we could not wait to get there. When the pilot announced, “Welcome to Norway,” we looked at each other laughing and were excited to step off of the plane.
2. Stage 2 – Withdrawal:
- Once you reach this stage, all of that excitement will have diminished by some extent, if not completly. You notice negative differences between the culture and your own and generate some resentment. You don’t understand how people could be so mean, things could be handled so poorly, etc. You may even criticize those living there and reserve yourself. This definitely happened to me; my friend and I were nice to others and, in return, were treated with disrespect and hatred. Our fascination quickly turned to a negative outlook, and we didn’t like to associate with Norwegians. We actually tried to change our flight back to London, missing the city we had fallen in love with and feeling upset that we would be spending our time in Norway instead. However, since we had already checked-in, no changes could be made. We decided to make the most out of the time we had there and to not give up completely on the culture.
(Just a side-note: We even spun a Krone, a Norwegian coin, as a totem to see if we were dreaming. We weren’t. See the movie Inception if you do not understand what I am talking about).
3. Stage 3 – Adjustment:
- This stage is where everything changes. You began to accept the differences and do not feel so alone. The excitement felt in the first stage is regained in small doses, and your sense of humor even comes back somewhat. This stage changed our outlooks on the trip completely. Everything definitely happens for a reason; because we were unable to change our flight, we did not give up and actually began to like the culture. It helped that we met some locals who were not only extremely nice, but also very funny and the Norwegian equivalents of ourselves personality-wise.
4. Stage 4 – Enthusiasm:
Posing with my curling shoes!
- With the last stage, you adapt to mostly everything and enjoy the culture as your own. You experience new things and are comfortable in your surroundings. Two of the Norwegians we met were Junior Olympian curlers who even taught us how to curl for the very first time. Who else can say that they traveled to Oslo on accident and then were given curling lessons by Junior Olympians themselves? Like I said, everything happens for a reason. …I have many videos of my curling experience; however, this one is my favorite.
Summary: Don’t give up on a culture simply because it frightens you or makes you uncomfortable. Those can be the biggest challenges which can lead to some of the greatest experiences overall. I am so fortunate that we were unable to change our flight. I can’t believe we even tried to in the first place. While leaving our hotel room, my friend and I both simultaneously, without even planning, said out loud, “Bye room, I’ll miss you!” What started out as a terrible “mistake” turned out to be one of our favorite trips. I have a feeling both of us will be back in Norway at one point or another.