“All who live under the sky are woven together like one big mat.” -Malagasy Proverb
Culture is a fascinating thing. We all grow up in a culture. We grow up learning HOW to live by someone else’s definition. What’s appropriate and what isn’t. Belief structures, Language, Food, etc. This is what makes travel so important. It gives the traveler the opportunity to open up and experience new cultures and share their cultures with the world too.
In order to have a positive experience, one needs the opportunity to drop their belief structures and expectations to let something else wonderful in. This has definitely been my experience the last 5 days. As you may recall from my last update, I wasn’t in the most positive of places. There was a lot of processing going on, a lot of loneliness and definitely a lot of discomfort.
Leading up to this trip, I have constantly been telling people that I expect to experience a heavy “Culture Shock.” The reason I said this is because I have rarely had the opportunity to experience other cultures that haven’t been heavily influenced by the Western world. In fact, I live in a pretty excellent part of the world where I can go from eating Ethiopian food for lunch, Pho for dinner and a choice between late night Gelatto or Bubble tea to end the evening and maybe take in a foreign language film in the process. My cooshy little environment allows me the opportunity to dabble in all world cultures (and languages) with little commitment.
By using the phrase “Culture Shock” I had little knowledge of what it meant, especially it’s intensity. Wikipedia defines culture shock as:
“Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life. One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign environment. Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, and Mastery, are the most common attributes that pertain to existing problems, further hindrances include: information overload, language barrier, generation gap, technology gap, skill interdependence, formulation dependency, homesickness (cultural), infinite regress (homesickness), boredom (job dependency), response ability (cultural skill set). There is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently.”
Good news is, I feel as if I am coming over the top of the hill and feeling much more open to the experiences and adventures that this amazing country has to offer. I received some advice the other day that said “Everyone there are people, just like you, and they have gifts to offer the world, just like you. It will all seem normal very soon.” These are the words I have kept with me as I continue to explore.
So what does culture look like here? Surprisingly enough, as diverse as back home. The country has 2 official languages; French and Malagasy. The country also has 18 tribes, all with individual languages. The history of this country is even more diverse. People settled here from all over the world from various eras. Indonesian, (mainland) African, French, Indian and even Chinese. The food here, a similar mix of rice, beans, spaghetti, soups, salads, and the French standard; baguette and butter for breakfast. The lifestyle is simple. Everyone has something to offer, and suprisingly there is more materialism here than expected. From SUVs, to Beats headphones, to some of the cheapest non-knockoff Nike’s I have ever seen. The clothes are rich with colour and the jewelry is gorgeous.
I also look to sharing the knowledge I have acquired about the cities I have visited so far with all of you. Stay tuned for an update tomorrow where I will talk about the beautiful city that is Antananarivo and the rich culture that Toliara has to offer.
Until then all i have to say is…enjoy as much of this world as you can…