Oh reverse culture shock

I once heard a singer say that one reason she loved to travel was the opportunity to look at ourselves and our own culture through new eyes. And sometimes we don’t like what we see.

Here are a few things that have stood out for me…

Relational –While in Bosnia, I heard many people say and demonstrate that relationships are a key component to their lives. “It is a wonderful thing the more we can love and be loved in return.” Or another paraphrase that I heard – “Success is measured by how many relationships one has.” U.S. culture does not share this value, or at least does not place as much emphasis on it. It has been difficult for me to readjust to this process. For the last couple weeks, people have seemed cold compared to my life in Bosnia. I know that this is not the meaning behind their actions, but after being in Sarajevo for 2 months, I have grown accustomed to doing things together, sharing nearly everything, offering/ receiving food and drinks, seeking out community, placing a priority on people, etc. A big question for me now is how do I continue a relational lifestyle in a culture that places a higher value on efficiency and tasks. Especially when there does not seem to be enough time for it.

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Bluntness/ rawness – Bosnian culture, and especially my supervisor, has a certain amount of bluntness or rawness compared to the states. Words are not usually minced, items are not usually sugar coated, political correctness is not always followed. You say, feel, express, convey what you want and then move on. It was highly refreshing for me. I used to operate in this manner when I was younger and studying to be an engineer, a profession which required a certain amount of directness or bluntness. 1 + 1 = 2. However, as I switched my major in undergrad and am now in graduate school for social work, I started dancing around topics more. But it’s never felt entirely natural or comfortable to me, and it wasn’t until this summer that I was able to truly recognize this process in myself. Now I am wondering what will my level of directness look like with others, especially clients. How will it look within a social work or a therapeutic context?

These are just a few tidbits that have been going through my mind since returning. It has been a wonderful summer in so many different ways and in large part to the amazing people in Bosnia as well as those affiliated with DU. Without these relationships, this program would not be the same or even comparable. A great thanks to everyone who helped make this summer what it was.

Goodbye for now Bosnia. Inshallah I will return soon.

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