This blog post is an attempt to give a glimpse of what's in store for an expat family the first few weeks after their arrival in South Africa, from Babbalas to Yebo, from enrolling the kids in school to going on the first safari, from watching weaver birds build nests in the yard to watching them tear them apart, from learning what robots are to learning what to do when they're broken, and more.
I recently went on a South African school trip as a chaperone. My job was to see that the boys didn't pull the girls' hair or scream too loudly on the bus ride, and to make sure the same number of kids returned home as left that morning. It was also my job to make sure that all the kids washed their hands after the bathroom break and before the picnic lunch.
Most recently, Pamela Druckerman wrote about mankind's newest love affair with de-cluttering as the solution to all human ills. She arrives at the conclusion that it's probably more a fad, like all those other self-help fads we regularly feel compelled to try, and that " I’m starting to suspect that the joy of ditching all of our stuff is just as illusory as the joy of acquiring it all was."
When I flew to America in 1983, It was my first trip outside of Europe. We had traveled quite a bit throughout Europe as children but the day my 16-year old self said good-bye to my parents in Frankfurt, Germany, not to set eyes on them for the next entire year, was the first time I would leave its boundaries. It was also the very first time I would travel on an airplane, an absolute novelty.
Reverse culture shock upon repatriation is worse than any culture shock. Before, there was the excitement about living in a new country, coupled with the benevolence you feel towards a people you don't completely understand. Then you return home and feel like you understand everyone far too well, and you don't like what you think you know about their psyche.
You don't have to go abroad to experience culture shock. You really just have to travel, say, seven hours on the Autobahn from the North of Germany to the Southern lands of Swabia or Bavaria. Somewhere along the way you'll cross over the Weisswurschtläquator (white sausage equator, South Africans might recognize it as a relative of the Boerewors Curtain) into Süddeutschland.
Culture shock is a topic every expat is familiar with. The thing with culture shock is, you usually get over it pretty quickly. So that if you fail to actually tell people about it while it's happening, you might totally forget you ever had it. Which is why keeping a diary is so great. Going back and reading over what you were culture-shocked about in 1983 is an entire culture shock experience onto itself.
My new phone has a lot more functions than my old one – and it looks cooler. Same thing with our expat living: Living abroad adds a lot of excitement and new experiences to our lives. It may be a bit of a challenge at first. But please don’t give up. Just try to get over the culture shock, and you will discover how much more interesting, deeper and richer your life has become.
Complaining is definitely the way to go if you're a blogger, but I know I should be grateful for the things that work at our South African house. So many people around us can only dream of phone lines and internet connections at their house. They dream of power or running water. They dream of a refrigerator. They dream of a wheelbarrow to carry firewood with. They can only dream.
Most of us expat bloggers have a reading list of a few other expat blogs that we enjoy reading and occasionally glimpsing new story ideas from. One of my favorite of these is Life in the Expat Lane by Miss Footloose, currently stationed in Moldova but having lived all over the globe, with fabulous adventures and mishaps to share . This is a guest post by Miss Footloose on Joburg Expat.