Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Hitting the wall ... and moving on

In 1954, coincidentally the year I was born, a Canadian anthropologist called Kalervo Oberg wrote an article that introduced the idea of 'culture shock' to the world.

He was talking about a four stage process that people go through when they are getting used to living in a new culture. First they have the exhilaration of the new sights and sounds and everything is very exciting. But then the routine of everyday life settles in and the strangeness of the world around becomes frustrating and exhausting. This is the culture shock stage.

After that, assuming that the person can get through the culture shock, they slowly adapt and their mental and physical well-being improves until they reach some sort of steady-state.

I knew all this through my previous work and book research, so I was expecting to hit some sort of wall eventually, and it came across me last week.

During my first few weeks here I had really enjoyed seeing things that were so different and stimulating to my own perceptions, and this had helped to overcome the difficulties of finding things and communicating in a place where few people speak good English. However, after Helen's visit my routine became more apparent and the thought of psyching myself up to go out to strange places alone of an evening when it was so bitterly cold became very daunting. That meant staying home alone every evening after a day's work, and the thought of that was also not very attractive.

So I made a quick return visit back to Sheffield, which was not very good for CO2 emissions but helped my emotional state, and after a great weekend seeing a few people again and doing a bit of DIY in my house I returned to Budapest feeling surprisingly refreshed. In fact, as I got off the train bringing me in from the airport and stepped out of the railway station, I felt strangely like I was coming home.

Then, on Monday evening, I went with some colleagues to a local cinema to see "Capitalism: a love story" and really enjoyed both the film and the creation of a new possibility for social encounters here. It felt rather like the film group that I have enjoyed being part of in Sheffield for the last year or so.

Adaptation has begun. I have picked up a tiny amount of Hungarian so far, not enough to maintain any sort of intelligent conversation but enough so that the world around me does not seem quite so alienating or challenging. I can now look forward to moving on.

No comments:

Post a Comment