Extreme Culture Shock
Extreme Culture Shock
Extreme Culture Shock.....
It was my 17th year. I had just graduated high school. Tricky Dick was about to lie down his gauntlet and resign his post. Vietnam was finally winding down. The American culture was in an uproar. The year was 1974. The year that I went on my first big life adventure. The year I experienced extreme culture shock.
Culture shock is an experience I believe a person never forgets. Life as I knew it would not be the same for the next two years. My adventure gave me so many gifts to bring with me into my future.
My Southern Boy had been stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany. He invited me to join him on this great adventure. My parents allowed me to make my first adult choice and instantly plans were being made. I recall the fervor of the rush for my passport.. The decisions on what to pack for two years, for life in a country I knew absolutely zilch about. The fear of leaving my family, my home, and my country. It is all still so real to me.
My preconceptions of my trip were abundant. I was from America the most progressive country in the world. I was so young and naïve. I had imagined my life was going to be very simple and backward.
My adventure began on a hot humid stale July day. The landscape was lush and green. I scanned every detail of my surroundings on the way to the airport, committing it all to my memory banks. I was so afraid I would never be able to return and in some ways I never have.
I flew out of darkness and into daylight. I have never been so frightened as I was that particular morning. T'he "Fasten your Seat belts" sign popped on, bells were ringing and my nerves were fluttering. I felt the large silver airliner begin its desent into a world I knew nothing about.
I gazed out of the small round window at Rhinemein International Airport in Frankfurt, Germany in complete awe of the city. It was very similar to our own large American cities. The difference? I could not read the signs and the cars were smaller and more box shaped.
I disembarked my flight and for the first time in my life I saw an actual moving sidewalk. The only other one I had seen before was on the Jetsons's cartoon. I jumped on the sidewalk and my vision was quickly disappearing right before my eyes. The feeling of the unknown had set in and was instantly followed by panic. The airport was bustling and people were speaking in different languages. Everyone seemed to have a purpose except me. I felt so isolated.
In my panic I felt the desperate need to call home to my parents and get them to arrange a return flight to normality ASAP. I began to scope the airport for a phone booth. Much to my amazement I came face to face with my first German sex shop. There were items in this store keepers window that I of course had never seen before. Some of the items I have never seen again and hope to never encounter in my life. I quickly located the much needed phone booth and to my dismay it was asking me for a denomination of money I was totally un familiar with. It quickly became evident to me I was going through customs on this bright shiny morning. I scampered back to the moving sidewalk, embarked and rode into my new realm.
My new life lie on the other side of this large plate glass window, that had large red stenciled letters painted on it that read CUSTOMS. A fat, balding, sweaty man went through my ton of luggage, my carry on and my purse. He issued me a stamp of approval and I was on my way. My journey had only just started.
I resided in Germany for two years. I learned to live and shop on the economy. I even developed a sense of direction. I traveled extensively through Europe by bicycle. I learned a new language and began to communicate. Most of all I began to enjoy my new life. I gave birth to my eldest son in Stuttgart Germany, Painted my name and my sons on the Berlin Wall. I became an adult on this life adventure. The months scooted into years and then my time to return home rolled around. Guess what?. Those same fears returned. Germany was my normal and a trip back to the world was quite unnerving.
I set those fears aside and returned to America to my cultural norm. My parents had put a young lady on a plane years before. I was very different upon my return. I returned with a wealth of knowledge that I shared with others. Some of this knowledge I imparted to my children. Forty years have passed with this life event memory came a reawakening as to what I had brought home a wealth of knowledge to share and impart, memories to last a lifetime and frayed nerves from extreme culture shock.....