12 March 2011

The Culture Cure

Maybe I'm a little odd (I don't know many who would dispute that statement), but there is one big thing I've often wondered: Why do people experience culture shock?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines culture shock as "a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation."  It's all too easy to watch TV shows or read magazine articles (with lots and lots of pretty pictures) and say, "Well, that looks like a lovely and inviting place, I'll take my next holiday there!"  But, when you arrive at this exotic destination, you're suddenly feeling very weak-kneed and stomachy; madly clutching at your "hidden" money pouch every few seconds.

I understand these symptoms are probably the most extreme (but you know some of you have done this) yet I wonder if with "adequate preparation" there might be a cure for the madness.

I'm sure lofty philosophers and intrepid world travelers alike could come up with countless reasons for a culture shock experience, but I believe there are only two reasons that have the most influence on causing people to become fearful or hesitant.  First off I need to say that I do not believe a difference in language is a legitimate barrier.  There are not many places in this world where people don't know the implication of the word "No", and I think you'd be very hard-pressed indeed to find a place where the people don't know the meaning behind a smile.  There will always be people to help, especially if you make the tiniest of efforts with their language and remember to be responsible and safe.  Now, what I believe to be the two main causes for a traveler's trepidation are: 1. an almost unrecognizable array of food options and 2. confusion incited by being largely unfamiliar with the traditional, or oftentimes historic or archaic architecture and design.

Unfortunately for you (and my stomach) this blog will not be about different culinary wonders from around the world (since the Cooking Channel and the Travel Channel have pretty much got that covered), but rather about the different and seemingly strange designs that define the cultures so different from our own.  This will be an effort to help you become "adequately prepared" in order to see if the symptoms of culture shock can be eased or possibly eradicated simply by gaining a greater understanding of why the members of these different cultures make the unique design decisions they do.

So welcome to my blog.  I hope that even if you don't feel like what I'm doing serves a greater purpose, you will at least learn something about a people very different from yourself.  After all, the world is not as big as we've been led to believe.


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