Posts Tagged ‘culture shock’
Ordinarily, I love foreign coins: their strange inscriptions, their unfamiliar weight, their sometimes odd sizes. But what’s interesting about foreign coins is the way, after enough time, they also fool you. Rummaging around in my wallet, my hand grasps a coin I think is a quarter or dime, but turns out to be a 5-peso or 200-shilling piece.
At first, I was amused — I got a little feeling of secret pleasure when I picked it up or if I didn’t notice and accidentally gave it to a cashier who handed it back to me, confused — it was my proof that I haven’t always been here, a responsible, rooted member of New York society. Now, however, the coins have become annoying. Despite how many times I try to purge all of my purses of the foreign money, it still emerges: in hidden pockets, ripped seams, anywhere I could look for change to pay a bill. And when I’m in a hurry the last thing I want is 30 pesos instead of $2.25 for my subway pass. I clean and I empty, yet again, and the coins glare back at me, shiny and resilient. You can’t get rid of us that easily, they seem to be saying.
For awhile — a few weeks or so — I had such a loose grasp of time that whenever someone mentioned a date in passing, I was lost enough to believe that the date in question was, in fact, that day.
Someone mentioned on Twitter the other week that she loved Friday the 13th. A few days later, someone else on Twitter talked about 9/11. In both instances, I briefly wondered if today was that day.
I’ve been staying in an apartment with possibly the best view of the tallest building in Latin America — and now I’m on way back to the States. It’s been hard to pinpoint, the reverse culture shock I’ve experienced since moving to New York.
It’s weird to say that I’ve even moved to the States after four years away. Because though it’s been nice being back and seeing old friends, meeting new people and going to new places, I’ve also experienced a number of what I call culture aftershocks.
Like how orderly and predictable transportation is: the subway, the buses, even the car traffic to a great extent. And how sanitized and over-purified other things are: the water, the food, the environment. And how reserved and detached people are: almost tripping over themselves as they run through their disciplined daily routines. It takes an enormous amount of effort not to pull acquaintances in and kiss them on the cheek when I see them, instead of the awkward hovering we do when we run into each other. I already miss the feeling of pushing through a tangled crowd, eating a taco spilling chorizo that I bought from a street stand while fielding enthusiastic calls of “Morena!!” and dodging careening cars, buses and pedestrians as I revel in the messiness of my complicated home.
The idea of climate refugees is still relatively new: groups of people fleeing their homelands because of extreme weather conditions that are the direct result of global warming, like drought or flooding. There’s even a fascinating new documentary called “Climate Refugees” that takes a look at the fates of “the quickly submerging islands of Tuvalu in the South Pacific, drought-affected regions of Sudan, storm-susceptible coastlines of Bangladesh, and rapidly expanding deserts in China” where people are being forced to look for new homes beyond their borders.
But I’m also interested in the idea of climate and regular immigrants. People who leave their homelands to seek a better life, economically, socially and/or politically in a more prosperous country and how the change of climate can affect their experience. If it’s a change to a warmer climate, there doesn’t seem to be as much of a shock as when immigrants relocate to colder places — the nerve-tingling freeze that never seems to get better no matter how many layers you put on and that already exacerbates, and often worsens, the cultural shock you go through.
I’ve witnessed this climate shock immigrants experience through some stories in different types of media. Here is a video of Africans who have made their home in Russia. Here is Dulce Pinzón’s Superheroes project, a photo collection I’ve featured here before, about Mexican immigrants from places like the states of Puebla, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Veracruz, stretching themselves in New York City. And here is also a radio segment about the largest Sudanese immigrant population in the United States, in Maine. How do you think you’d deal with both culture and climate shock?
Photo via Celsias