Culture shock can be defined as a condition of disorientation affecting someone who is suddenly exposed to an unfamiliar culture or way of life or set of attitudes. If any of ya’ll have ever experienced culture shock then you most likely agree with this definition. In my last post I mentioned how, while in China, I experienced culture shock.
Although the city I was in had about two million people, the atmosphere was completely relaxed and calm. The pace of life, unlike the U.S., was slow, efficient, and effective. You either walked or took the bus, while sometimes taking a taxi. The stress of traffic, gas prices, and flat tires did not exist. If you wanted to go somewhere you just hopped on the bus, received the joy of meeting a stranger, and in a few minutes you were at your destination.
Not having to worry about dealing with a car, most likely, contributed to the inviting atmosphere of China, but the genuine friendliness of the Chinese people had a major impact on the atmosphere. It did not matter if it was the husband and wife who stood outside for hours in the morning cold to cook delicious breakfast for students of the university:
or the lady on the bus with a cute little kid, everyone smiled at you and everyone was friendly:
When you walked down a street or around campus the people actually looked at you and said hello or ask how you were doing. I am sure you are thinking, how does that correlate with culture shock? If anything it sounds like it might, in fact, be the opposite of culture shock. More like a cultural relaxation if anything. That is actually, more or less, true. The culture shock came when I left the city. For the last two days we were in China, we stayed in a little town near by. The town was, in a lot of ways, like a ski resort town but for mountain climbing, kayaking, biking, and other things of that nature. It is a very westernized town and you can see almost as many white, mostly European, people as you can Chinese people.
The great thing about it is you can buy North Face coats for like $20 and DVDs for about $2. The shopping is unmatchable and there are restaurants that actually have pizza and hamburgers!
And as odd as it is, this is where the culture shock hit me. Not going into the Chinese culture but coming out of it and going into a western culture. A culture that is fast paced, consumed with spending money, and for the most part, focuses on the individual instead of the whole. Not that there is really anything wrong with that…except for the small fact that greed infiltrates that type of environment very quickly. I think Dave Matthews sums it up well in his song Seek Up:
Oh look at me in my fancy car
and my bank account
Oh, how I wish I could take it all down
into my grave, God knows I’d save and save
Man, take a look again, take a look again
things you have collected, well in the end piles up
to one big nothing, one big nothing at all
If you ask 100 college students why they are getting a degree, what is the answer ninety percent will give you? So they can get a good job and make money. What about adults? If you ask 100 adults what their main five year career goal is, what is most likely the answer you will get? Their goal is to get a promotion and a bigger paycheck. It seems the biggest concern today is to get more money. Of course, that makes sense because if your 16 year son or daughter doesn’t have a 2009 model car you are poor and if you don’t have a two story house and a boat you are a bad American and Jesus just doesn’t quite love you. A few months ago I got to hear Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, speak at a conference. At one point he told a story of his friend Bob Goff. Bob Goff is someone who understands there is more to life than just profiting financially. Here is a great video of Bob Goff speaking:
The thing is, after being in China I realized how we, as Americans, are so financially rich. If you watched the video then you heard Bob talking about what encouraged him to start his organization. He went to India and he saw the devastation and poverty firsthand. That’s great for Bob but luckily, if that is even the right word, for us, we can see all this over the internet and on T.V. We can read magazines and newspaper articles about it. Fortunately, we do right, we have this knowledge right? For the most part, people know how bad of shape the world is in, but the question is what are they doing about it? What are you doing about it? Are you eating four meals a day and getting venti white chocolate mochas or are you actually making a difference and helping someone that needs it?