First, I should probably define what culture shock actually is:
culture shock (culture shock) / noun : The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
Seems pretty obvious to me, right? Right. My definition, however, takes a whole new twist. And it goes a bit like this:
culture shock (culture shock) / noun : The feeling of complete and total shock when a person feels no love or gratitude towards their own culture.
My ideas on this came from a discussion I recently had in one of my classes. We discussed the idea of what culture is, as well as what culture we identify ourselves as part of. All answers ranged from being part of the American culture, being part of the West Virginia culture, being part of the culture of many other states, being part of a mixture of cultures, being part of a political culture, and being part of making Appalachian culture. The answers regarding culture ranged from traditions, to holidays, to language, to food, to religious views, to non-religious views and ideas about what life really should be like.
This sounds like a great discussion for those of you reading this I’m sure. And it was. I like diversity, but also getting to know other people. However, I couldn’t resist paying more attention to the reactions of those who openly stated that they define themselves as part of the West Virginian and Appalachian cultures because of my own personal biases of identifying myself as part of those cultures. cultures too. As I listened to some of the responses about what these students thought about their culture, the opinions they formed reflected both positive and negative about this culture that she and I chose to openly admit to be a part of. This is where my definition of culture shock came into play.
I was utterly shocked by some of the things I heard. I was shocked that some of those who defined themselves as West Virginian and Appalachian could say that they were ashamed of parts of the culture that helped build them up, that helped get them where they are today, and who have a hand in shaping them for the rest of their lives, whether they like it or not. I started to feel confused and utterly shocked when I heard people say they were ashamed of their accents. I was confused and shocked to learn that some people who define themselves as part of this culture find the negative, derogatory and downright false stereotypes, generalizations and jokes about our state funny. I was confused and utterly shocked that there were people who thought that nature, fishing and hunting, large parts of our culture, whether you participate in it or not, were regarded by West Virginians as nothing but sport and parts of sport. seen, and that we take them for granted. As I found myself getting more confused, shocked, and a little angry, to be honest, I found I also learned an important lesson. And that lesson is this: people don’t need to see the same things I see in this beautiful state. People may not have had the same experiences as I have while living in this beautiful state. People don’t have to agree with what I believe regarding this beautiful state. And that’s totally okay.
Learning this lesson has made me realize that I appreciate so much more about this culture that I can proudly call my own. I appreciate my accent. I appreciate that I spend the holidays with my family and that my grandmother always cooks too much so that everyone who happens to pass by has a full plate to eat. I appreciate that most people in my hometown know my name, the names of my brothers and sisters, and those of my parents. And you can probably tell a funny story about any or all of them. I appreciate going to church on Sundays, even if I don’t now. I appreciate learning that hard work always pays off in the end. I appreciate that neighborhoods are named after creeks, and I appreciate growing up swimming in those creeks. I appreciate that someone says “thank you” when I hold the door open for them, and that I also learned to say “thank you” to veterans who risked their lives to keep us safe. I appreciate having friends close enough to be family, and teachers who genuinely care about your personal life as much as they care about your education. I appreciate how a high school soccer team can bring so much excitement to a small town. I appreciate that I learned how to shoot a gun at a young age. I appreciate that I’ve learned to stand up for myself and know when to walk away. I appreciate the days spent on four-wheelers in the mountains and later frying that rattlesnake you saw on your trip. I appreciate seeing a big buck hanging on a wall, and the smiles on a kid’s face as they sit on a light up rod in a tiny Bluegill.
I appreciate catching crayfish in the creek, and those coals keep my lights on. I appreciate being born and raised in West Virginia, as an Appalachian, and all that these two cultures have shaped me.