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Stages of Culture Shock

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kids in costa ricaWhen I first arrived in Costa Rica, I loved everything about the country. The beans and rice accompanied with fresh squeezed mango juice was a joy to wake up to every morning. I found public transportation and pedestrian life a freeing alternative to car maintenance. I even thought the unanticipated monsoon (I arrived during the rainy season) to be refreshing and even humorous. After awhile though, I discovered a frequent ration of beans and rice to be unimaginative and I also grew tired of being caught without an umbrella on my way to Spanish class during a downpour.

Missionaries may have experiences similar to these during the stages of culture shock. At first, we love everything about the culture; but after awhile we start finding the methods of our new culture inferior to our own back home. When we start rejecting the culture, we have a few options. We can avoid the culture and become ineffective, we can go home, or we can adapt. In order to adapt to the new surroundings, missionaries need to see the good and the bad in the culture.

School KidsEvery culture, our home and our host, has godly and ungodly characteristics. For example, I found that Costa Ricans are very warm and hospitable, while in America we tend to be very informal with our guests. Try to look for the good parts of the new culture and appreciate them for what they are. After we have decided to adapt to the new culture, we will learn to accept it with both its strengths and flaws.

Many missionaries also find that having another person that experiences the first few months with them is invaluable. This should be a person that you may ask questions of and confide in.  Of course, not all missionaries have the luxury of having someone from their own culture to experience the new life with, but if you can that can really help. Even if you find someone from your home embassy or another missions organization to spend time with, that can do the job.

Also, try to remember that even though your surroundings may be radically changing, God is still the same.  Sometimes, for me, that has been something that I have held on to to help me not feel so unsettled.

Photos by Life in pictures and suvajack

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