Sunday, July 5, 2009

Culture Aftershock

'Culture' is an amorphous term. It can apply in many different situations and can mean basically anything you want it to. The concept of culture can be associated with tangible things, like works of literature, music, film, or art, but can also be tied to the intangible, like gestures and spoken language. How any one aspect of 'culture' is attributed to one group of people or another has to do with many things, such as geographical location, dietary habits, mode of dress, sounds created in a language, and so on. These attributes are what make a culture unique. After having lived in Japan, the stark and pronounced differences between Japanese culture and my own have led to some fundamental attribution errors, or just plainly, culture shock. A person can experience any different level of culture shock within a period of transition from one culture to another. It's not an unusual thing to experience, but how you deal with it at the present and afterward is critical. Despite having been a Japanese major and studied Japanese language and culture many years before ever coming here for the first time, I still experienced culture shock to some degree. Even now, after having lived in Japan for a meaningful period of time, I still experience small bouts of culture shock every now and again. At the present time I would like to review my experiences with a kind of informed, retrospective tone and share them with you.

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