My wife and I had just moved into our sparse apartment across the street from the market in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. Fresh off a flight from the US and an eye-opening two hour bus ride around hairpin turns, we needed some food.
And when you’re somewhere where you don’t know what to do, you do what you know to do.
So I went downstairs to the mini-super and bought some milk in a bag, corn flakes, eggs, Bimbo bread, and ketchup. We were good to go for a while.
I took everything upstairs, put the milk in our dorm-sized fridge and went about trying to remember to put the toilet paper in the garbage can.
Sometime in the next few days, we took out the ketchup and noticed that the safety seal was broken.
What would you do?
I’ll assume that you’re a reasonable person, like me. Reasonable people like their ketchup to be safe. Reasonable people return unsafe ketchup to the store to get a new bottle of safe, untainted salsa de tomate.
Except reasonable in the United States is different than reasonable in Honduras.
And my Spanish wasn’t so great.
What I expected to be a quick and easy transaction (it is at Food Lion!) turned out to be a very frustrating experience.
I couldn’t explain what I wanted to say and even if I did, it probably wouldn’t have made sense to the woman behind the counter who never ever smiled at me. I retreated to our apartment with the it’s-probably-poisoned ketchup.
That’s how culture shock is.
My concept of how life operates didn’t match the new culture’s structure.
It’s confusing. It’s frustrating. It’s humbling. It’s awesome.
Until I began to figure out how things worked in our new situation, I was confused, frustrated, humbled, and exhausted.
Ah, but what a great chance to learn!
What about you? Have you been frustrated by a situation because you didn’t understand what was going on? What did you learn from it?