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8 Benefits of Culture Shock

8 Benefits of Culture Shock

“Though we travel the world to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

-Emerson

Through the glass doors I could see distant lights that were diffused by a copper haze in the night.  The automatic opening of the doors triggered in me a similarly automatic response of movement, and soon my feet felt the transition between tile and concrete.  The heaviness of burning plastic and petrol smoke attacked my lungs as I processed my surroundings.  A cyclone fence topped with spiral razor wire boxed me into a 60 foot (20 meter) square.  I could see a cow on an overpass ahead and a crowd of about 10 men deep pushed up against the perimeter of the fence.  The only way out was through an opening guarded by a gauntlet of increasingly frantic men in odd dress who were desperately shouting and raising their hands at us as we approached.  I was afraid.  I wanted to run back inside the terminal and wait for the next flight home.

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The year I’d spent preparing for this trip was threatened in that moment. I didn’t feel ready to walk past the threshold guardians at the fence, and into India.  The mob of men stood before me threatening all I had dreamed and planned for. Though I well outside of my comfort zone, I continued to move forward anyway.

Though it can be extremely uncomfortable, culture shock caries with it the seeds of 8 profound benefits. There are countless types and ways in which we experience it.  Whether we take employment in a new field, have a baby, experience a divorce, or travel to a distant land, we all experience culture shock to some degree.  It’s a disorienting step (or nudge) outside of our comfort zone.

1. It Heightens Senses

As we pushed through the cloud of people in the scene above, I was feeling the onset of that lost-in-a-supermarket feeling when I was a kid. With four times the population in one third the space, India has a relative factor of twelve times the people as compared with what I was accustomed to back home.

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Before that moment, I had never felt so awake. It was a bit like the moment before the whistle starting one of my high school wrestling matches. At the time, I felt my survival depended upon that lucidity. The heightened awareness of culture shock can place us into a frame of mind much like what a warrior or athlete experiences at the height of a contest.  It’s an absolute mindfulness where time seems to slow, where our judgements come quickly and where we’re ready to react before we cognitively process the threat.

I later learned that the people pressed to the fence were only awaiting relatives and that the overzealous gate keepers were just hungry cab drivers.  What an entrance experience though.

2. The Magic Happens Out There

With the heightened awareness that comes from being in a new environment, a foreigner will notice the gorgeous architectural appointments, the deep lines on the face of a elderly man tilling a field or the spectacular colors in the the clothing of children at play that a local will take for granted. The drama is in the details, and we are far more aware of the details from the framework of the shock of being immersed in a novel environment.  Inspiration tends to come to so many while on a journey in a strange place.  The novel situations seem to evoke this inspiration.

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3. It Builds Intuition

It didn’t take me long while traveling to become a quick judge of the intentions of people around me. Within a couple weeks, I learned to quickly determine whether a local was interested in talking to me because he wanted to take advantage of me, or because he was genuinely interested in having a conversation with me.  this intuition was awaken while I was traveling and has stuck with me in the years since that first trip.

4. It Promotes Growth

Growth occurs when we step out of our comfort zone. It is important to know that stress is not a bad thing. We learn when we are in stressful situations. People who consistently avoid stress don’t grow (…until they are forced out of their comfort zone by a good teacher or life experience).  People who constantly seek comfort, grow at a much slower clip than people who push themselves into the unknown regularly. Our experience should be an ebb and flow between comfort and stress. To grow on our own accord, we need to bring ourselves into reasonably stressful situations, learn a lesson and then return to comfort. Culture shock is one source of this stress that promotes growth.

5. It Begins the Journey of Discovery

Once we are outside our comfort zone, we see things anew like a child. While I was in India, one of my favorite places to visit were the local markets. From the vibrant colors of fabrics and bindu powders to the odd fruits being sold. The lack of refrigeration of meat and dairy was difficult to process too. Culture shock allows for some fresh perspectives on life and the various ways it can be lived.  I had an opportunity to live closer to the ground an learn new skills which taught me about myself in the process.

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6. Traveling Solo is Seldom Lonely for Long.

There is vulnerability in the experience of culture shock. One thing I found while traveling the world (especially solo) was that I was far more open to the company of strangers around me. There is safety in numbers especially when those home sick feelings creep in.  I made great friendships with people who i met in hotels/hostels, in restaurants, on busses and trains, etc. On this planet, we really are more alike than we are different. This comes out readily while we travel. Culture Shock helps this along.

7. It Frees up Blocks

William Pollard is credited with saying: “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement.” Culture shock has a way of exposing our deepest values, motives and prejudices. Not all are clean and friendly. Travel is a pursuit that oddly brings us home to our core with greater ease than if we’re sitting comfortably in our armchair at home. Being exposed on the outside exposes us on the inside too. Taking advantage of this exposure is an opportunity for personal growth.

8. It Positions Us For the Discovery of Our Current Personal Limits

There is a limit to how much we can endure as humans, but the truth is, our limits are far further off than we can ever begin to imagine.  Culture shock is an opportunity that positions us to discover our mental and physical endurance (or lack thereof).  Arriving in a new city in the middle of the night with no reservations is a chance to learn something new about ourselves.  Stumbling into an alley empty of all but the most unsavory people and stray dogs is a chance to push through the boundaries of what it really means to be “safe”.  As we survive the experiences that inevitably arise through the culture shock of travel, we find our limitations flee from our conscious.

Growing as we spend time outside of our comfort zone is necessary for our development.  Taking comfort in this is a muscle that needs to be worked.  It’s a skill that can be developed.  I’ve found no more immersive way than surrendering to the inevitable feelings from culture shock that arise as we explore a culture different from our own.

Featured photo credit: CandyBoxImages/shutterstock.com via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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