The Honeymoon Phase

“Culture shock is the emotional and sometimes even physical discomfort people feel when they have to leave everything familiar behind and have to find their way in a new culture that has a different way of life and a different mindset.” 1

It’s been two weeks since I arrived here. Overall, the experience has been wonderful. Or could it be that I’m just happy and excited because I’m still in the honeymoon phase? Anthropologist Kalervo Oberg, says there are four stages in culture shock: Honeymoon, Crisis, Adjustment/Recovery and Adaptation. A new way of life in a new city with new people speaking a different language… it couldn’t be all that easy, right?

I have forgotten how it feels like to be a student again but I wasn’t surprised that this is going to be hard work. During the first week of school, we spent at least 8 hours each day learning about the essentials of leadership, cultural differences and intercultural communication. Very timely and very valuable topics for wannabe multicultural project managers. Now, I need to get used to having one week of rigorous classes every month and I must start praying that an appropriate internship opportunity will present itself soon.

In our class of 38 students, only three of us are non-French speakers. Lucky for me, the medium of instruction is English. But it’s not enough that I know how to buy a train ticket or groceries with the little French that I know. I must get better sooner. I should begin reading the cheap second-hand books I bought in French (with my favorite Le Petit Prince included) and regularly meet classmates who are willing to teach me and learn with me.

I can say that the best part of my stay here are the people I have met so far. The people living with me, my classmates, my friends and fellow Filipinos – they have been very warm and helpful in every step of the way. While we have fundamental differences in race and language, it is not so hard to see that we share the most basic human values necessary to co-exist peacefully.

With this optimism, there is no doubt that I’m in the first phase of culture shock. More challenges are yet to come but nothing will get in the way of this honeymoon because I want to enjoy it while it lasts.

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