Culture Shock!

culture shock
Anxiety and confusion overwhelming a person suddenly living in a culture, with a way of thinking or set of attitudes, that is completely foreign to them.

Basel © michaelcamilleri //
Basel © michaelcamilleri //
People have been talking about culture shock since the late fifties and early sixties. The late Dr. Kalervo Oberg has been credited for making much use of the term, and thanks to the advances made by a highly technological world, we find greater numbers exposed to culture shock.

What Is It?

Basically, culture shock is feeling like a fish out of water—like the new kid on the block. Or the first time you had to wear braces or glasses and everyone stared at you like you were some kind of freak. Or when the bully got at you in school. Except with culture shock, no one’s really trying to intimidate you—it’s just a new language or something that is making your self-esteem take a huge bashing.

Remember how great it felt in eighth grade—you were cool and the younger ones looked up to you! Then after you graduated you entered high school—new rules, new students, and you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Think about when you entered college!

Culture shock is very similar to that, with the exception that you don’t understand what’s being said. So take a deep breath and remember that how things turn out is up to you. Embrace the challenge—you got through high school, didn’t you? This could be one of the best experiences of your life.

Culture shock has pretty much settled into four stages:

Honeymoon phase:
You’re in a new place—everything is unique and exciting. This phase is all about checking out new places, customs, traditions, foods, bars, and people!

Negotiation phase:
Sooner or later, depending on your background and experiences, anxiety and melancholy start to set in. You miss your friends, family, your grocery store, your TV programs, the ability to speak your language and have people understand you clearly, knowing what the people at the next table to you are saying, and even just humor! You miss the spontaneity of joking and having someone understand the joke. Now you have to figure out what things mean, where to find your favorite foods, how friendships work. You just want to go home.

Adjustment phase:
Again, this phase is up to you. Sometimes it takes six months, for some a year. You develop your routine, sleeping habits get better, your starting to figure how things work, what makes the people tick, where to get what, and if you’re learning a new language, you’re being able to communicate with others. Keeping in contact with others is a key element here. Try to find places where you can use your new language as well as interact with those who speak your mother tongue.

Mastery phase:
This is the been-there-done-that stage. You’ve figured out how to get around, got your new network of friends, enjoying communicating in a new language—you rock! The important thing to remember here is that you’re embracing the culture and contributing to it. It’s not about you or having things your way. It’s sharing the best of your culture and appreciating the wealth of your host country.

And keep in mind, when you return to your homeland, there’s reverse culture shock…but you’ll work through that one too!

Symptoms of Culture Shock

Now that we understand what it is, let’s look at some typical symptoms:

    bouts of crying
    eating disorders
    obsessive compulsive actions
    feelings of inadequacy
    hypochondria—endless symptoms of illness
    unending lethargy and sleep
    fear and anxiety
    the grass is greener on the other side mentality
    easily overwhelmed
    blaming your spouse (or others) for the move
    questioning your decision making ability

Of course, everyone will have different symptoms, but usually you’ll try to cling to the past and what is familiar. The quicker you move forward, the faster you will adjust and enjoy yourself. If you have any prior psychological problems, just be sure to check with your doctor before you make the move so you’re well prepared to deal with the changes.

Serious symptoms include:

    thoughts of suicide

Don’t feel ashamed or scared to ask someone for help if you are feeling this way.

Fighting Culture Shock

This could be the best time of your life—for your family and for you! Approach it like a battle to win and come up with your own strategies to win it. If you know how long your assignment is and where you’re going, start your preparations ahead of time, develop a Life Value statement and goals to accomplish. Figure out what you want to see happen and how you’re going to do that.

If you have young children, find out all you can about the schools and what will be best for your children’s needs. There are an abundance of things to do for families, learn to make the most of what’s being offered to you.

If your spouse’s job requires a lot of extensive travel, calculate ways to maximize your time together (not just a list of how hard things are for you on your own!). If the travel is taking a toll on your marriage or health, figure out what you can do to alleviate the situation. Sometimes it might mean not extending the initial contract and returning home.

Count your blessings and don’t be too hard on your family or yourself. It takes a bit of time to adjust to a new country.

If you’ve given up a job to follow your spouse on their assignment, don’t focus on what you miss about your own work and find fault with your current situation. Instead, use this time to spend with your children, or if you don’t have that privilege, develop some new job or life skills for yourself. You’ll never regret it.

Stop complaining…period! It’s the fastest breeder of discontentment.

Volunteer wherever you can.

Find a fun support group—maybe it’s a church or an organization from your home country.

One thing that can’t be stressed nearly enough—learn the local language! Yes, they may speak English, but it’s not only courteous to be able to communicate in their language when you’re living in their country, it is an experience you cannot get back home and one you must embrace. Seeing you trying will go a long way in making your new country friends easier on you.

Feelings of sadness are normal, but if they persist and are getting in the way of your daily life, you need to seek the care and counsel of someone qualified to help you.

Remember—enjoy everything you can about where you are, because good or bad, nothing lasts forever!

I Love a Good Debate: God’s Intelligence

“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Thinking © klearchos //
Thinking © klearchos //
How often do we think of intelligence as one of God’s characteristics? It’s not usually listed in a course on the Nature of God. We spend more time on the traditional aspects: his omniscience, omnipotence, immutability, and so forth. These are things that apply to God alone and not to us, and so speak more of what theologians call his “otherness,” or basic difference from us.

Intelligence seems to some a little too earthy for God. But of course he must be intelligent, since he designed and created the entire universe. But then why do we so frequently speak of him as though he’s not very good or very bright?

“Why would God create a world with evil in it?” “Why would God allow so much suffering in his world if he’s so good?” “Why would he let me lose my job when I have a family to support? It just doesn’t make sense.” Or, “What purpose would God possibly have for letting this happen?”

You can supply your own question. And so many of our questions either imply or clearly state that we think God isn’t as smart as we are, because we would never think of doing what he does or allowing what he allows.

“If I were God I wouldn’t have done it that way.” Ever found yourself thinking or saying that? I actually heard a man begin his prayer like this, “Lord, if you really think about it…”

In the book of Job, when God’s ways are being questioned, or even misrepresented, a series of conversations ensues where human wisdom and advice are offered. Finally, God breaks in and answers, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (Job 38:2).

Then for two full chapters God poses a long list of questions that imply his vastly superior intelligence and wisdom over the limited reasoning and flimsy intellectual powers of human beings.

In Isaiah, through the prophet, God invites his people, “Come, let us reason together.” He is in dialogue with them over their sin and his plans for removing the stain and deadly consequences of human foolishness.

In the Gospels, Jesus engages the contemporary scholars and wise men in conversations that expose both their faulty reasoning and his high intelligence. In a number of cases, his challengers, as well as those bystanders listening in, were both amazed and amused at the cleverness of Jesus’ answers. Sometimes the reader has to stop and think, “I don’t get the point. What exactly was Jesus saying here?” Then after some reflection it all becomes clear, “Oh, now I get it. What a brilliant answer!”

Jesus’ contemporaries frequently slandered him: a deceiver, drunkard, glutton, false prophet, demon possessed, and the like. But no one ever accused him of being stupid. If he came to reveal the nature and character of God himself, then clearly one of the things we learn about our Creator is that he’s brilliant beyond measure.

So we may begin any question about God with this assumption: whatever reason God may have for the things that happen, I can automatically assume that it’s a good one. He may choose not to grant me the knowledge of the why of it all, for he might want me simply to trust his intelligence over my own.

Another way we come to see God’s intelligence is through the various and creative ways he deals with us in answering our prayers, or even in the way he discloses himself to people of high learning. He seems to enjoy placing what I would call “mind-teasers” in the path of someone who lives strictly by reason and logic. He puts before them something that challenges their minds and causes them to ask, “Who could have done this without knowing all about me and my innermost thoughts? There seems to be some intelligent being behind this.” More than one skeptic has come to faith this way.

Far from being anti-intellectual, as so many of Jesus’ modern followers appear to be, God has respect for the intellect, for true learning, for solid reasoning, and he has a taste for a good, old-fashioned debate. And why not? He created it all.

Have you ever had an answer to prayer that seemed to reveal God’s intelligence?

A Whole New World: Inside BaselWorld

BaselWorld – Hall Impression // ©
BaselWorld – Hall Impression // ©
If the World Watch and Jewellery Show were a dessert, it would probably be Mr. Weininger’s record-setting bejeweled chocolate pudding. And with its two-carat diamond and glittering gold leaves, it could easily be one of this year’s creations at Basel’s famed Messeplatz March 8-15. It is the top show of its kind in the world, highlighting the finest and the latest in luxury watches, jewels, and precious stones. Officially named BaselWorld since 2003, the eight-day showcase now draws almost 1900 exhibitors from 45 countries and a minimum of 100,000 visitors from 100 countries.

Only the best international designers come to BaselWorld, everyone from Patek Philippe, Gucci, Breitling, Rolex, Tissot, Casio, Citizen, Omega, Chanel, Tiffany & Co., and Longines, among others. And for many of these exhibitors, it is the only trade show they will attend. They come to network, to share their creativity, to unveil new designs and set trends. This is a crucial event for the industry, and not only for exhibitors. It’s also where the world’s best sellers shop, relying on buyers for retail dynasties such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Hamilton Jewelers, London Jewelers, and countless more.

But the show isn’t just about showcasing — it’s also social. After hours, the city opens up BaselWorld Village at Binningerstrasse, with restaurants, bars, and a variety of networking opportunities. It’s a place where anyone can mingle, kick back after the show, and make new acquaintances.

So could such an exclusive show be open to the public? In Basel, the answer is yes. In fact BaselWorld has guest care down to a science, developing an entire service just for visitors. They offer accommodation on Basel’s select hotel ships, berthed specifically for the event and complete with a shuttle service to Messeplatz; a Business Centre with internet access, as well as a Media Centre; a BaselWorld shop with a book store, Catalog Centre, and travel agency; and more. There is even a comprehensive BASELWORLD App available on their website where you can download a 3D map of the exhibition center, information on exhibitors and wares, and snippets from their BASELWORLD Daily News.


Tickets are available on BaselWorld’s website through an easy-to-use online ticket booth. You can download a pass all the way up to the last day of the show. Spend one day or attend all eight days.
For Visitors — Price and Tickets
One-day pass: CHF 60.-
Full show (eight-day) pass: CHF 150.-
Group passes for schoolchildren and students only are also available.

How to Get There

Basel’s ideal central location in Europe makes it a very easy-to-reach destination. It is accessible by its international airport, multiple railway stations, its unbeatable public transportation system, and by car. You can find out more from these websites:


Basel International Airport


SBB, Swiss Railway Station
SNCF, French Railway Station
DB, German Railway Station

Public Transportation

BVB, Basel Public Transportation

BaselWorld – Outside View // ©
BaselWorld – Outside View // ©
While at BaselWorld, you may notice parts of the exhibition hall being rebuilt — signs that building plans for expansion are right on track. The finished structure is expected to be completed by 2013 and will hold more floors, a new event hall, and a ‘City Lounge.’ Here you can see a video clip of what’s being developed:

No matter where in the world they come from, BaselWorld always brings together a variety of people from all cultures who share a common interest in all that ticks, tocks, sparkles, and shines. It’s cultural, it’s social, it’s fashion, it’s business. And whether you’re in the industry or out, maybe a good deal of it is just plain fun.