When people talk about culture shock they usually talk about the feeling they encounter when traveling from a first world country to a second or third world country. Another skin color, different habits and ways of living, based on cultural backgrounds as well as the (environmental) circumstances and so called poverty lead to ‘far from home’ experiences, that might be experienced as shocking.
Having traveled extensively around the world and spending a lot of time in my second home country Mali I’ve found that over the years it has become quite a culture shock for me when I spend time in a first world country…
I have of course thoroughly enjoyed all time spent with family and dear friends as well as their generosity and hugs. It’s hard to put into words how much I’ve enjoyed a variety in vegetables, cheese and multigrain bread being available on a daily basis (even thinking back of it is mouthwatering and I’m feeling grateful for all the lovely meals I’ve been offered!).
It wasn’t hard to get used to asphalt roads again and I have not missed the daily layer of dust on my laptop nor my mosquito net.
But yes I do have to admit that being in Europe also felt like a shock.
So many people glued to their schedule of work, sports and other so called obligations hardly find the time to breathe, let alone spend some quality time with friends or family.
Even the latest phone, iPad or other gadget only gives some satisfaction for a short time.
Supermarkets and shops are overloaded with all kinds of (instant) foods and products someone thinks of as necessary or even vital and a lot of it is not even appreciated when being eaten or used.
I found myself in shops where I felt so overwhelmed that I actually left without buying anything, even though I had honestly entered planning on buying stuff I can’t buy in Mali.
I’ve had moments feeling like a stranger or a child, looking around, wondering what on earth was going on or really important (the color of a vacuum cleaner???)…
I’m back to the dust and mosquito nets, surrounded by so many familiar black faces, who gave me a warm welcome home, back to the kettle of water instead of toilet paper (I assure you, once you got used to the water even the softest kind of toilet paper feels like sand paper, and it still leaves you longing for the cleanness of the water).
Most of all I’m happy to be back in a less crowded environment, an atmosphere with less stress and surrounded by people having time to visit one another. Landing at Bamako airport I instantly felt at home, comfortable, happy and perfectly fine with all that’ll not be available till my next visit to a so called first world country.
And noticing that the rain has flushed away the spider webs and insects from some hard to access places makes me feel grateful for that overloaded, overwhelming shop, that I fled from without buying a crumb-sweeper..!