There was a time when moving to a different country was a hard thing to do. You had to say goodbye to family, friends, familiar places, language, and culture. Everything you had in the new home was different and strange and hard to get used to. This induced a period in people’s lives known as Culture Shock, where they went through the grief process over everything they had lost. For many this process never improved and in fact worsened becoming Culture Stress. Others learned to adapt and accept aspects of the new culture. They embraced things and adapted others mixing in a bit of their own culture. These people became multicultural and led richer lives for having changed. Not an easy process, but worth it.
Today we have global communications. We have things like e-mail, the internet, and social tools like Facebook and blogs. People can move half a world away and act as though the never left home. They can stay in touch through cheap phone calls and even see the people they are talking to via video calls. It makes cross cultural living easier in that no one has to go through it anymore. You can move half a world away from home but never leave.
It has made things harder really. Culture Stress is only avoided when the new culture is engaged and accepted. If you never leave home, why spend all the money and effort to go?
If you are a cross cultural engager, if you have chosen to live in a country that is not your own, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
How much of an effort are you making to engage the local culture?
How much time do you spend thinking about and communicating with your home culture?
When you go back “home,” will it seem as though you never left?
When you leave the culture you went to experience, will you have regrets that you spent more time trying to connect back home, where you were going to spend the rest of your life anyway, than connecting with the people and places you only had a limited time to get to know?