Those who have not experienced Culture Shock define the phenomenon in clear terms, yet it proves wholly ineffable to those subject to its forces. Playing witness to these forces upon my seventy-year-old grandmother illuminated some aspects of the phenomenon. As a subject to Culture Shock myself at one point, being an observer allowed a better understanding of clashing cultures and how the human mind can deal with it.
Coming from Pakistan, a country technologically, economically, and educationally backward, my grandmother found the influx of information ubiquitous in the U.S. disconcerting, not to say overwhelming.
From iPhone 5′s, to online food delivery, to stores such as Home Goods, she had never laid eyes on such plentiful productivity. Naturally, she thought of her home country and bringing all of these goods back with her. However, I questioned if that culture had a strong desire for receiving endless amounts of information in extremely small periods of time. Rather, the traditional fabric of “face to face” exchanges and transactions connects Pakistanis while Americans are tightly knit through social media and high-speed interactions.
As her grey eyes flickered and glanced around at arguably the center of American culture, New York’s Times Square, I watched her face for an expression that would define Culture Shock. She stood and absorbed every bright light, advertisement, and department store. How amazing it must be to witness ultimate modernity at an age when the soul has developed to its peak after experiencing highs and lows.
I heard nothing but graceful silence from the lady dressed in traditional Pakistani clothes. The Culture Shock permeated her senses, and if it did not enlighten her, it certainly brought down some of the cultural barriers and misunderstandings before her arrival to the United States.
Her stance to Culture Shock epitomized the informative silence that defines the phenomenon. The ability to soak in the new culture while holding onto the old one is a rare skill, one that I cannot say I have under my belt; but witnessing this rare and beautiful occasion has taught me to embrace the ambiguities and indefiniteness.