The world is filled with billions of people who each exist within their own sphere. Since humans simply don’t have the capacity to fathom all that this world has to offer, we create our own bubble in which we can exist and co-exist among and in tune with whatever we choose to include. We like to believe that we rule our own planets…
All my life I’ve lived in one country, experienced one people, perceived life from one perspective. I was happy inside my little snow globe that was planted on the same surface, overlooking the same scene… and then I decided it was time to move; so I did – ten time zones to be exact. And just like that, my world went from a steady standstill to speeding down a slope.
Here in the Pacific North West there are so many everyday things that are practiced completely different and perceived as totally normal. The latest is daylight saving time, which moved me another hour from home. Clearly, my understanding of the term “daylight saving” is imprecise. Even though we adjusted our clocks, the sun now sets at 4:30pm… so much for being frugal! This recent turn of events not only makes me want to have dinner twice, it also tempts me to go to bed at eight. My sleep cycle is in a state similar to jet lag , my recent attempt to shake a few kilos is hanging on a thread and – oh, lets not even talk about being threaded, who knows how to be fashion forward in four layers of clothing and, of course, water resistant shoes!?
In addition to the weather, culture shock is another big contributor to the adaption process. I read about it before embarking on this journey and honestly thought it was just a term someone made up to avoid admitting that they’re homesick. Well, I was wrong – it’s definitely a thing. And just like I couldn’t conceptualize it because I didn’t know it exists, I now find it hard to explain. The main thing, for me, is missing the small everyday things that used to define what “home” means to me. Having my own car, managing my own household, establishing and controlling my own schedule… I didn’t realize these things were so significant until I didn’t have sole autonomy over them. I’m lucky to have joined a family who makes adapting pretty easy, it’s just that moving in with a family after living on your own for 7 years takes a lot of compromise when independence comes so natural. This is good for my future self though, as I do hope to have a family of my own one day. Another part of culture shock is the feeling that it’s me against the world. All. The. Time. When I had a long day and just want to hang out with someone I’ve known for years, the distance between Seattle and South Africa goes from miles to pounds and trying to carry all that weight can really be a downer! Other small things that adds to culture shock are the comminication loops, which happens several times a day. Having to repeat the word “milk” and even my own name four times when ordering coffee is slightly annoying, sometimes embarrassing and always a waste of time (which, even in a laid back city like Seattle, no one has). Luckily my struggle with speech is getting better after three months of speaking primarily English – I even dreamt in English the other night, which was an alarming confirmation of just how much change really is going on! Also a confirmation that new things do get easier in time… it only requires patience, preserverance and a hell of a lot of practice.
So, as everything in my world is an explosion of old and new, I am thankful for this: my roots. Being grounded allows me to go through the motions of learning and letting go without losing touch with who I am. At the end of the day, a snow globe is beautiful regardless of where you put it… and once shaken, its chaos is what makes it so magical.