Culture

I guess that’s why they call it shock, because it feels like. . .

It’s hard to say. Other than your whole body is involved. Every sense is taken aback, put in it’s place. From the delectable tastes to the smells. And the sounds. The rain patters in a different dialect. White noise of crowds is even more indiscernible and now slightly off-putting. The reason culture shock is so powerful is because we so often feel immune to it. We think that we’ve seen it all. Nothing can phase us. And that is exactly when it does.
Since I was a child I always had an image of a Japanese airport in my mind. Looking back now I know that this airport was really a place to store stereotypes that I was accumulating as a misinformed Western youth. The place was full of neon colors and you could find anything you wanted in this or that vending machine. It was extravagant. For some reason there was an excessive amount of conveyor belts as well. My stereotype of Japan never left he airport. For some reason I never really imagined what it would be like there.

Getting off of the plane at Tokyo Narita Airport the most shocking thing was that it looked like every other airport I have ever been in. Sanitized seats, walls, floors. Brightly lit. Something of a dull drone was delicately draped over the excitement of being in a new place. But perhaps that was the remnant from 12 plus hours in planes.

The language divide is different. When traveling in a country of other Romantic speakers there is an underlying commonality. Signs, while ambiguous can still at least  be sounded out. This is not the case in Japan (although there is a fair amount of Latin alphabet usage in public spaces). You look at a sign with symbols, and can recognize it as that, but only that.

It makes me wonder, above and beyond human nature, what are shared commonalities between cultures; and how much off my culture do I carry with me despite my personal attempts to delineate from it? I find myself critical of my culture often, sometimes in the realm of hyper-critical. To find flaw within your culture and voice it is no different then to notice you don’t like the way the furniture is arranged at home. I have reached the point in conversations multiple times where someone will reproach my critical nature and say something akin to “well if you don’t like it so much maybe you should move to (insert far-off sounding country here).” I’m not sure if this is because I’m being a little too worrisome about where the sofa is, or if they are too attached to it’s location. Either way, culture, and our attachment or aversion to it, is a very divisive topic.

Maybe what is most shocking is the realization that I am so deeply ingrained in, and attached to, my culture, despite my criticism.

It isn’t because people are different from place to place. They actually aren’t. Leather bags, food and water goes in, excrement comes out, that’s about it. It’s what they do that varies. It is what they do, and how they do it that will make your eyes widen at the sight of the same food you’ve eaten a hundred times at home, change the smell of a city from acrid to intriguing, and even make the call of a bird sound that much different. Almost like it has an accent.


Marco Pollo

When was your worst case of culture shock? How do you manage it when it occurs?

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How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Whenever I leave to travel I do my best to be prepared for the best and the worst . . .

Usually a positive attitude and open mind suffice for making the best possible. Unfortunately travel–and the toll it takes on me–also makes me susceptible to the occasional bug, virus, or ailment of one form or another.

So here is what I travel with to take care of myself: Continue reading

On The Rent

Sometime everything changes . . .

Like May 5th, 2013 when my friend sublet my room and I started traveling.  That was the last time I paid rent and since everything changed. I have been open to what the universe throws my way. It has been one continuous string of present moments. Allowing me to grow into who I am now. That’s the great thing about traveling. It allows for the unfolding of that which is supposed to happen, indifferent to plan or prejudice.  Continue reading

Before You Go to Mesa Verde

The park ranger reminded me of an ancient alien theorist . . .

Maybe because my friends semi-jokingly insisted that the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde were built by them. Or because the striking ambiguity behind their claims.

“We will be descending into an alcove where these ancient people resided,” Is something along the line of how the speech started, “What do you do? Are you a doctor? Carpenter? Teacher, student, farmer? I want you to imagine what you do on a daily basis as you enter this place, because these people were living their lives much the same way we do.” Continue reading

The Liberating Part of Traveling

As social beings we are constantly analyzing how our actions will impact ourselves and those around us . . .

Whether it be on a conscious or subconscious level. Every single interaction–friend, family, co-worker or stranger–that occurs is a methodically thought out movement, effected by where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing. Granted, some are better at thinking these things through then others.

The way we present our inner selves to the outer world is dependent on these circumstances. We have the mask we wear at work, at school, at home. Some people have distinct masks for each occasion, some have a malleable mask that subtly changes from one place to the next.

Traveling requires you to take off your mask, or rather, it allows you to. Continue reading

Time to Whittle

The last you heard from me I was tired and grumpy in New York City . . .

It is bizarre to think that I left that city exactly a month ago, after having spent only a week there. I’ve now been on the east coast for one month and twelve days. My original idea was to spend a majority of my time in NYC getting immersed in the literary scene. And as is the case with original ideas, that obviously isn’t what happened.

I spent a weekend in Upstate New York with a friend I hadn’t seen in five years. It didn’t feel like much time had gone by when, after walking two miles in pouring rain, we hugged and started to catch up. One of the days we took a trip to the Shawagunks and found a spectacular waterfall and a series of pools that led to it. That weekend also included a train stopping when it saw us on the tracks, and a sprint into the woods. Continue reading