I started thinking about this task and my first thought was that I never actually experienced cultural shock as I had no chance to live abroad for some longer time. And then I realized I had it too without even leaving my country. The biggest culture shock I ever experienced in my life was connected to moving from the little town in the south part of Poland where I was brought up to a big one – Warsaw. By that time I was absolutely unaware that I was actually experiencing it - I was simply thinking I needed to learn how to adjust and find my way in a new place.
Warsaw was unknown in every possible way – I didn’t know the city at all, had no mental map of it and no orientation points, the system of transport was quite complex and I remember being totally scared of missing my stop and being completely lost (there was no GoogleMaps then). I was alone here and had to learn everything from the beginning – how to live by myself, how to manage my apartment and my finances, how to build new relations, how to orientate in the city, how to discover it and make it a bit more mine. Apart from that I also had to learn to understand the world of the higher education I was just entering – new system of education and new system of my own learning.
Generally when I go back to this time I can’t remember feeling anger. I rather remember feeling totally strange and for most of the time – lost and separate. I definitely was not from here on every possible level and I felt like I will never be, that I’m simply too far and too different. And what’s more that everyone can feel it and see it.
What I tried to do was to discover the city by myself – I was walking around different places and tried to make my own map of it. I also asked people who were from here to show me their places. And I was discovering university system. When it comes to the transportation system one day I read very simple tip: “if you miss your stop on a bus, get off, go to the other side of the street take the same bus and go back one stop” – and I remember I really felt relief that this is actually so easy. Step by step I was more and more from here and felt save and in the right place.
I finally chose to stay here. I love this city and it irritates me from time to time - as in any other relation :-) I know what I like about it and I know what I don’t like about it. I am also aware that after so many years I still have the kind of double identity – I am from Warsaw and I still am from this little town I was born in. What helped me the most I think was to accept this fact. And also that I don’t have to be 100% Varsovian because this extra little-town-identity is valuable thing that also created me.