That Time I Couldn’t Speak My Own Language

The first time I think I really experienced culture shock was when I got to the Istanbul Atatürk Airport passport control. Obviously a lot of the people in line were also foreigners like me, but I was still blown away by the amount of different cultures and ethnicities I was seeing in the line with me. That is also the great thing about Istanbul. It truly is a city of East meets West. There isn’t really one culture, but a melting pot of cultures that make up the city, and I am so privileged to have experienced it.

The thing with culture shock for me is that I was expecting it, so it does not seem as interesting to talk about it. Of course a person is going to be shocked when they move outside of their comfort zone and into a world they have never experienced before. However, the thing that I never thought would happen, especially while I still lived in the country, was reverse culture shock. Now I still have about one month left in Turkey, but I still have had a couple times where I think I have experienced reverse culture shock.

The first time was when I was alone in my bedroom watching one of my favorite TV shows, “How I Met Your Mother.” During this certain scene the main characters are getting into a cab and they tell the driver the place they would like to go. The cab driver’s response is where I got quite anxious. He simply drove off… I know this is not very exciting, but there have been plenty of times when I have taken a taxi while abroad and not known if I was actually going to end up in the right place because of the language barrier. It is especially stressful when I am in a country like Bulgaria when I know absolutely zero Bulgarian. I think the reason I got anxious was because in a way I didn’t understand how easy it was for the taxi driver to understand where he needed to drive his passengers. It has been a while since that has happened to me.

The other time I have experienced reverse culture shock while in Turkey also has to deal with language. Since my American phone doesn’t work in Turkey I had to get a new phone with a Turkish number. I have to add new minutes and texting every month, however my phone shop guy doesn’t speak English very well. I got into this routine of what to say in Turkish to him so I could be in and out within a few minutes. Last month he hired a new girl, so when I went in the last time I dealt with her. She is foreign and speaks perfect English, so this should have been even easier to do than when I deal with my normal phone shop guy. Weirdly enough, it was not. I guess since I had perfected how to explain my plan in Turkish, I never really learned it in English, so when the new girl asked me what to add to my phone I had no idea what to tell her. In the end I figured it out, but it was still extremely shocking that I couldn’t add minutes to my phone in my native language.

Culture shock is an amazing thing that I want to keep experiencing for the rest of my life. There is nothing like it and everyone should have the opportunity to experience it at least once. At the end of June I will return to the States and I am sure I will have plenty more reverse culture shock experiences to tell.

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