I arrived in Germany 3 years and 3 months ago without speaking a word of German. The first year and a half was probably the most difficult in my life and I had already hard times adapting to other culture before. I now speak German well enough to converse over the phone. I also started to make and understand jokes which is very difficult in any foreign language.
I arrived in Terra inconnita thinking I would learn German within six months because this is the time it took me to speak fluently English and Spanish. I had few years of english and spanish clases at school (I am French). Well, it took me a bit more than a year and a half to start feeling confident speaking German with people. Meaning: I did not need 5 minutes to create a sentence that would eventually be grammatically totally incorrect.
I see languages as doors to people and nations’ hearts, minds and guts. Understanding a language does not only allow you to converse with people. It helps you understand the way they see, understand & appreciate the world. In this learning phase, I faced many cultural shocks. I tried every time to remember that nations where built based on common values and mental models in order to facilitate interactions. Mental models are like maps that help us decipher the world around us.
I see languages as doors to people and nations’ hearts, minds and guts. Understanding a language does not only allow you to converse with people. It helps you understand the way they see, understand & appreciate the world.
My own mental model was changed by every interaction I had with other cultures and even sub-cultures. I lived in Paris and moved to the country side when I was a young teenage: I had to learn other way of seeing time and distances. Every interaction opened up my awareness and capacity to welcome the unknown and to adapt to it. You could send me in the middle of china. I will probably survive…
Maybe you are planing to move abroad or already arrived. Here are few things about how it feels to be a foreigner in a country and how you could adapt faster:
- There are things that will shock you and no one else, try to accept it.
- You will pay more attention to behavior because you do not speak the language yet.
- You will anticipate events to prepare for all possible outcomes.
- Your beliefs and values will sometimes be challenged.
- You will be misunderstood and misunderstand others.
- Words will come out of your month in the wrong language.
- At the beginning, you will feel tired as hell after just two hours of conversation.
- You will be told how good and how bad your language skills are in the same day and wonder how to interprete that…
- You will get lost in translation.
- You will discover new culinary awesomeness and awfulness.
- You will learn self-leadership
- Do not expect everyone to be understanding
- Take some time for yourself with some good music and food from home
- Write down your thoughts
- Share your culinary culture because food has really no barrier
- One bad experience with a native is just one bad experience
- Be the one to open conversations
- Accept the diffrences
- Be flexible
- Enjoy the journey
Do you have anything to share about your cultural shock? Any tips?