I Experienced Culture Shock In India

I Experienced Culture Shock In India

The culture shock I experienced while abroad came entirely complimentary.

Traveling is humbling, inspiring, and exciting. Whether you take a fourteen-hour flight to an exotic destination or simply road trip to another state, traveling is something that everyone should experience. One of the many benefits that come with traveling is learning how other societies and cultures differ from the one you are used to. Broadening your view on the world makes the planet seem a lot smaller when you realize that every person has their own chapter in history and every place has a story.

In December of 2017, I traveled to India. Although I booked a flight and a hotel room, the culture shock I experienced while abroad came entirely complimentary.

Culture shock, by definition, is “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture.” As soon as I stepped off the plane, a wave of panic unexplainably fell over me. My breathing became narrow and sharp and my vision blurry. I began stumbling over my words in rapid succession, trying so desperately to communicate to my mom that I was about to faint. I had no idea why.

I could feel my heart beating aggressively in every part of my being as my mind raced to understand what was happening to me. Was I having a heart attack? Is this what a seizure is like? Am I going to be okay? These irrational and terrifying thoughts were the ones that ran through my mind as I sat there, face flushing and pulse pounding. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but there was nothing wrong with my body. My mind, however, had just suffered an anxiety attack.

This anxiety would, unfortunately, continue until around half-way through the trip. Upon arrival at our hotel, the trunk of our car had to be searched. After exiting the car, we were divided by gender and had to walk through a metal detector, then get frisked head to toe. This was a reoccurring practice that took place almost everywhere we went.

Our arrival time at the hotel was roughly around 4:00 a.m. However, jet lag paired with anxiety is a wonderful thing, and I can’t say I slept that night.

The next day, we drove to the city of Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. This was our first full day out and about. It was a three hour drive in the middle of nowhere. In India, drivers don’t exactly follow the rules of the road. The best phrase I could use to describe what it’s like to drive in India would be “controlled chaos.” Every half second, someone blares a horn or swerves across five unmarked lanes all at once.

There’s an ungodly amount of cars on the road, so you can bet the traffic is incomparable. Sitting in a car as the driver swerves through endless rickshaws, motorcyclists loaded up with four people, and stray animals is quite the stomach churner. However, to my disbelief, I didn’t witness any accidents (nor did anyone hit one of the million cows frantically clomping into the streets).

I am a blonde girl with green eyes and white skin. Why is this information important? Because not only did I stick out like a sore thumb, but everybody—and I mean everybody—stared at me. Picture yourself at Disneyland on a crowded day walking down Main Street, except every person that you pass intensely stares at you. Some people even ask to take your photo or reach out to touch you. That’s more or less what it was like.

One thing I noticed throughout my time in India was that there weren’t many women out and about in the streets. When I arrived at Agra, I stepped out of the car and a crowd of about twenty men began surrounding me and speaking to me, which made me very nervous. I couldn't understand it at the time, but the staring comes from a place of pure curiosity and interest, as blonde women are not very common to see in India.

Once we were in line for security at the Taj Mahal, the woman who was frisking me said, “you’re so white!” I had absolutely no idea how to respond, so I nervously replied, “I live in Oregon and we don’t get a lot of sun.” I’m unsure what happened with our language barrier, but this response made the woman seem very skeptical of me and she asked me to “repeat my statement,” then placed me into advanced security.

I will be honest and say that I was uncomfortable while in India. I truly experienced culture shock first-hand. Getting sick from everything I ate, stared at everywhere I went, and patted down upon entry into my hotel certainly were experiences out of my comfort zone. But that’s good. I shouldn't expect everything to be perfect and up to my Western standards of society when I travel.

India is a fascinating smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and smells. I believe that traveling throughout India for a week helped me appreciate the fact that every place lives differently. Not in a bad way, but simply different than what I’m used to. Culture shock is scary and confusing; but acknowledging that you feel uncomfortable is simply the first step to overcoming your fears and in turn, discovering everything this beautiful world has to offer.

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Neill

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30 Places Every Millennial Girl Needs To Travel To BEFORE She Turns 30

Live your best life, all around the world.

I am a travel enthusiast. There is nowhere I do not want to go.

Traveling the world is one of my biggest goals in life and I am determined to make it happen. The world is so big and I would love to see every inch of it at some point or another.

However, if I can travel to these 30 places before I turn 30, I will feel as though I have accomplished more than enough.

1. New York City, New York

2. New Orleans, Louisiana

3. Grand Canyon, Arizona

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

5. San Francisco, California

6. Los Angeles, California

7. Nashville, Tennessee

8. Honolulu, Hawaii

9. Walt Disney World, Florida

10. Chicago, Illinois

11. Nassau, Bahamas

12. Cozumel, Mexico

13. Cancún, Mexico

14. Bridgetown, Barbados

15. Basseterre, St. Kitts

16. Philipsburg, St. Maarten

17. Montego Bay, Jamacia

18. Christiansted, St. Croix

19. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

20. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

21. Tortola Baths, Tortola

22. San Juan, Puerto Rico

23. Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

24. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

25. Oranjestad, Aruba

26. Mykonos, Greece

27. London, England

28. Paris, France

29. Barcelona, Spain

30. Rome, Italy

Okay, so these are 30 places I want to go out of like, a million. I have traveled to some of these places and would not hesitate one second to go back.

Every new place is like a new adventure, and traveling will forever be so exciting and intruiging to me.

Cover Image Credit: Maisa Teat

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God Called Me, And I Am Ready To Fly

Our journeys all look different - mine just happens to involve a 17-hour plane ride.

I love airports.

There's a thrill that comes from going through security, from purchasing that overpriced magazine to halfheartedly flip through in the hour before I board, and from rolling my suitcase down the moving walkway and feeling like I'm walking on water.

Is it obvious that I've spent a lot of time in airports?

I grew up with parents who were basically short-term missionaries: we traveled often as my mom and dad led high-school students on mission trips all over the world. I never had a huge fear of riding an airplane (although I hated when my ears popped). In fact, the time in the airport and on the plane was always my favorite part. My stomach filled with butterflies, and I was giddy with excitement and anticipation for a new adventure.

My parents' traveling bugs have bitten my brother and me. As I write this on a bed covered in miscellaneous traveling necessities, my packed suitcase sits in the corner of my eye, waiting in anticipation for Thailand and Cambodia.

I will sit in one of those airplanes I love so much for 17 hours. 17 hours flying over two oceans, dozens of countries I've yet to visit, and a couple billion people who haven't experienced the love of Jesus yet.

For six months, I've been sitting in my own "airport", watching people arrive and leave in my life as they make the journey to their own destinations. I've been praying for God to prepare my heart as my team and I work with victims of child trafficking in both Thailand and Cambodia. I've imagined what my two weeks overseas will be like, and I have thought of all the good and bad scenarios that could occur: so far, the worst that could happen is my plane falling from the sky, and even the end to that is me seeing Jesus forever. I promise I'm not a pessimist.

Most of all, I've been curious about what this will do to the rest of my life. How will my worldview be impacted by what I see? Will this change what I want to do career-wise? Am I over-thinking, as usual?

The thing is, though, that I have already been changed by the trip before I have even left. I had to trust that God would provide $3,500 through the incredibly generous people in my life. I grew in my patience skills during the several months before departing; I've shared before how much I suck at waiting.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned, though, is the idea that this waiting time before I board is just as important for my heart as the time my feet walk on Thai "land" (writing that made me laugh aloud). There's that cliché statement that "it's not about the destination; it's about the journey", and there's a big part of me that agrees.

We often put our destinations on pedestals all the while forgetting about the paths it takes to get us there. It's like hiking: yes, the view at the end will be great, but the journey to the end is just as good. Our journeys teach us lessons for our destinations. If we're too busy thinking about where we will end up, we miss out on where we are.

At the same time, though, we should not discount our destinations. Thailand will be more than I can imagine, but it's not the end of my journey. Rather than thinking of our destinations as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, we should think of them as stepping stones across the river of life.

Oh boy, that sounds cheesy, but picture it: when we stop seeing our destinations as "final" destinations and more as layovers before our next stop, our eyes are opened to the countless opportunities God gives us to grow. From one stone to another, we move forward in God's direction.

I heard the Holy Spirit calling me to Thailand and Cambodia, and like Isaiah, I said, "Here am I, Lord. Send me!" What stepping stone is God calling you to next? Are you ready for the journey? Rest in His provision and His guidance. Sometimes, the journey is overwhelming, but in the big picture, our eternal destination is so worth it.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria Nay

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