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speaking of culture shock

21 September, 2012

I went grocery shopping after work last Friday.  Common enough occurrence, right?  Surely no room for culture shock, especially for an American in her own country.

I know it’s always a bad idea to go grocery shopping when stores are crowded, and it’s an even worse idea to go on an empty stomach, but I didn’t want to grab fast food for dinner, and I didn’t want to have to head back “into town” on the weekend.  And when I’m tired and hungry, I’m far less tolerant and a bit more cranky.

As I made my way toward the back of the store, I could feel myself sliding down into the second stage of culture shock.  Up until this point, I’ve been almost exclusively chilling in stage one: the honeymoon.

During the honeymoon phase, many things in your new culture are bright, shiny and wonderful.  Discovering differences between my culture and that of my new environment is one of my favorite things in life.  This stage is lovely, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever.

Rejection, the second stage of culture shock, is a lot less pleasant. And it’s exactly where I found myself last Friday evening.

I only meant to run in and grab a few items for dinner, but instead, I found myself attempting to navigate around numerous people (and their double-parked shopping carts) who had stopped in the middle of an aisle to chat, searching the store for something that would be easy to locate back home, and having to come to terms with the fact that the store stopped carrying the one vegetarian product that I had gone there specifically for.  When the store clerk explained that not enough people were buying it, I was mentally rejecting him and every other person in the store.  The rejection continued as I waited in line and then played my part in the cashier greeting script because the store does not have self-check lanes.

My grocery store episode was really nothing, and could easily have been avoided.  There was another episode though, a few weeks back, that was a good deal uglier.

The Husband and I stopped for coffee at a small roadside diner that we came across in a town outside of Murray.  We sat at the counter, and a waitress was quick to take my order, and just as quick to completely ignore my husband.  Perhaps she somehow failed to see the man sitting two feet to my left, but we were the only two customers at the counter, and I really don’t see how she could have missed him.  I don’t know her motivation for choosing to ignore him.  I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I also have to wonder if she didn’t address him because his skin tone is a few shades darker than my own.  Just another drop in the culture shock bucket, right?

I haven’t reached the third or fourth stages of culture shock here yet, but I’m sure that some day, I’ll find myself both accepting and adapting to life in the rural south.

And I’m really hoping that I never again encounter ignorant behavior like the scene from the diner; racism isn’t something I want to accept or adapt to.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ncchnat permalink
    21 September, 2012 14:48

    I’m sorry for what you experienced, but I have to say, that having grown up in Indiana and having family in Kentucky, I’m not surprised. Saddened and angry, yes, but not that surprised. There are members of my own family I can’t talk to anymore because they won’t accept my sister’s fiance (He’s Native American).

    It’s disgusting and sickening and something that we shouldn’t have to deal with anymore, and yet we do. I hope that ignorant waitress is the only person you come across who acts that way.

    • 21 September, 2012 15:15


      It’s nice to see you here! 🙂

      And thanks for your comment. I know I probably should not have been surprised by the diner incident, but it caught me off guard.

      I hope that some day, no one has to deal with nonsense like this!

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