People who react worst to culture shock are the ones in search of adventure, who have unrealistic expectations, hoping to « change the world ». It is a true fact that we all wish to leave a trace. We all hope that our teaching will be fruitful. However, we need to know that we should not force things but, instead, get in the rhythm of the area. We need to adapt to the place and people, not the other way around.
It is normal to go through different steps of culture shock :
- The honeymoon phase
- You feel exhilarated, you are so excited to leave. Your bags are ready, but you might not be yet. You are eager to discover a new culture, see the Natives and/or the Inuits. You really want to taste their culture with all your senses. When it comes to work, everything is new and very exciting. You learn new things and the work team is very tolerant towards you.
- Everyone is beautiful and nice. Life is beautiful !
- The shock phase
- Gradually, you realize that not everything is perfect. You expected something and finally, what is happening is completely different. You are disappointed. For example, you were expecting to see complex cases and to be constantly stimulated in your everyday work. Since you are in a very small community, things are not very busy and you have seen only minor cases. Disappointment hits you: your expectations were not realistic. Everybody experiences a short or long phase of culture shock, depending on their preparation and expectations.
- You are starting to miss your friends and family, you have built new friendships but they are not strong enough to allow you to really express your thoughts and feelings. You are starting to feel isolated.
- You become more and more aware of certain actions and gestures that can disturb your values. You ask yourself what you are doing here: you are experiencing culture shock!
- The adjustment phase
- If you persist and get to the next step, you will notice that finally, slowly, things get better. Professionally speaking, you notice that there are so many things to do that time just flies by and it is very exhilarating. Your colleagues become close friends. You do not always understand the conduct of some of your patients and some actions will still go against your values but you are in measure to better understand the reasons why they act this way. You tell yourself that you will not be able to change them and that you are doing a good job in helping them. You feel comfortable in the Far North and are really happy not to have taken the next plane when you were in a phase of shock !