The first time I experienced culture shock I had no idea what hit me and it was thanks to a wonderful man by the name of Didi Bacon that I survived the experience and lived to tell the tale over 20 years later.
We had lived in the UK for just 6 months in a very International community with many Americans, when I went to a British summer camp and it is there it hit….’We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!’ The fact that we were living in a ‘miniAmerica’ had probably kept me from this realisation.
I went to summer camp with my best friend Vanessa Bacon (Didi’s sister) and became so ill all I could do was lay in bed. I remember having headaches, feeling sick at the smell of the food, having no energy and wanting to cry all the time. Above all else I wanted to go ‘home’.
Didi watched me for 24 hours or so and asked me if I wanted to call home. Back then all there was was a payphone that we fed 10 pence pieces into. We made the call. I talked to mum and dad and cried. Then Didi asked if he could talk to mum and dad. What he told them was like someone hitting a light switch in me. He told them he thought I was suffering from culture shock and that they should probably tell me that and then he would unpack that for me.
If I was 10 years old that would have made Didi somewhere around 18 years old, but his move from Zimbabwe a year before had taught him so much (as had his British Dad and Mauritius Mum).
That was all it took. A little bit of knowledge about what was wrong. Suddenly I felt 100x better. I wasn’t dying I was simply experiencing a new culture. It may have been a fairly dramatic response, but so was my first real experience of living in Britain. I have since learned that culture shock can to weird things to you!