Sunday, March 1, 2009


Last week I wrote a midterm test for my pre-matriculation students. The text for the comprehension test was on the five stages of culture shock: honeymoon stage, hostile stage, acceptance stage, reverse culture shock. The acceptance stage is basically acknowledging that people do things differently without thinking its wonderfully exotic (honeymoon) or wrong and in need of correction (hostile). Reverse culture shock is when things about a person's home culture seem wonderfully exotic or wrong and in need of correction. I've been in the acceptance stage for a long time but recently realized when I watched Benjamin Button that I've begun to slip toward reverse culture shock. In one scene, the daughter is reading Button's journal to her dying mother in a hospice. She's sitting in an uncomfortable chair so she gets up and sits on the unoccupied bed next to her mother. Then she puts her feet (still in boots) on the bed. My reaction: I cringed and thought, "Eww, that's so disgusting. She should know better especially in a hospice."

While I have certainly complained about plenty in the US, I have never had this instinctive reaction that a common American custom is dirty. I haven't realized that I had assimilated some of Asian culture. It's a bit unnerving.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your repugnance at a person putting his or her shoes on a bed. I think you are of another generation of Americans. We used to be raised to have better hygiene practices, but I see a lot of people who have not been brought up well or have decided that some practices are too old fashioned for them. I do not like to see people put their feet up on the seats in the bus. I also am puzzled and repulsed by where people will sit themselves down. No bus wait would be so long as to induce me to sit down on the sidewalk. I see too many dirty and disgusting things hit the sidewalk!
    An elder American