Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Somewhere on the culture shock graph...

During our YAV orientation, culture shock was heavily addressed. However, for those of us in Northern Ireland, we are perhaps experiencing a different range of culture shock as our brother and sister YAVs in other places of the world..
In terms of the general culture shock iceberg, this is more or less what it looks like:
The iceberg parts that are above the water and underwater can be equally hard to deal with in Norther Ireland. Everyday presents new challenges, particularly in communicating with the people around me. While English is the official language of Northern Ireland, accents and vocabulary vary widely enough from my American English that the mini translator in my brain needs to be switched on for the conversation. (For the days with an early start time, it often takes a little while, or two cups of tea, for my brain to be awake enough to carry on an intelligent conversation with a Belfast native.) Since church ministry centers on working and communicating with people, adjusting to working in a church is even more difficult when in a foreign country.
In terms of overall culture shock adaption, on this scale:
most of my days involve moments of just sitting on the x-axis, having moments of positive well-being, and also moments of negative well-being.
As a YAV-alum suggested, the graph when translated to real life is not linear. And sometimes it feels like each day I go through the entire cycle of the graph.
Every day can be simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.

It's been awhile since I have passed on general observations from my daily life:
- I have gotten my personalized Tesco's (comparatively a Bloom for VA folk or Schnucks for St Louis folk) points card in the mail. The grocery card is a step towards being a resident of a certain area.
- Days are already beginning to shorten. The sun rose after 8 a.m. today and set before 6 p.m. And its not even winter. I have discovered that I have a hard time motivating myself to get out of bed when it is dark.
- There is the South and there is the North. Refer to Ireland only in such terms as "the South" or "the North." The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are not labels referred to in daily conversation.
- Most people when trying to be impartial do not take the time to say Derry/Londonderry. The newsfolk generally refer to it as Stroke City. (Stroke being the term for what we might call a slash mark.)
- Halloween/ All Saints Day originated in the Celtic Calendar; the early Celtic Church basically fit Christianity into the Celtic practices.
- after walking in the rain, your trousers will be wet. if you say pants, you are referring to your underwear.
- I use a lot of colloquial phrases in my daily language. You don't realize this until you are in a different culture, and after you say something, you have to figure out if your accent got in the way or your word choice was poor. It's usually the latter.
- Before pumpkins (and gourds in general) began to be imported to Ireland, carving turnips was the closest alternative. In case you are interested:

In the next post, I will cover more macro- observations of my time here, particularly focusing on The Troubles and its effects on daily life. While this is not a society in open conflict, Belfast is definitely not a peaceful city. There are constant reminders of this in daily life, and I have been purposeful in taking the time to digest what I have seen and heard. Otherwise this part of the culture shock - the hurting of this society that is beneath the surface that I am very much witnessing - would slowly build up and cause me to sink. Again, bear with me as I strive to find the words to clearly and accurately portray my thoughts.
Until then, let me leave you with a quote on a lighter note.
Context: in response to NPR's refusal to cover the Rally to Restore Sanity (how I wish I were in the U.S.!!!), John Stewart's response was this:
‎"NPR you just brought a tote bag full of david sedaris books to a knife fight"

In peace and grace. :)


  1. I love reading your writings. It makes it all so vivid! You are in our thoughts and prayers daily. You must know that you are making a difference. Of that I am sure.

  2. I should have warned you about the pants thing... although it does make for some funny conversations.... I think I was also remiss to not pass along the following website: http://www.effingpot.com/house.shtml

    That should help the mini-translator, although that covers more British English then anything else, it should help...

    Having also been in this situation, the only thing that I can say that that time does help. While the 2nd graph isn't linear, you do find that time does help with things. Some days you may get homesick, but other days (generally when the sun is out and shining) will be phenomenal (I swear!)

    Btw, the Tesco reference made me a bit nostalgic... even though I was Morrison's shopper myself....

    I wait to read of your analysis of the hurt that is going on (although I don't wish to rush such analysis)

    Peace be with you!