I've been HOME home from Poland for a week. And it's weird.
In some ways it feels like I never left and that my time in Poland was a dream. In other ways, I'm reminded a lot that I was gone. The reminding comes in many forms like seeing friends, hearing about things that I missed, and even small changes in myself.
I was only gone for a little under eight weeks, but they say that it takes 21 days to form a habit. And I was gone for 54 days, so says my mother... not that she was counting. This means that I had plenty of time to form new habits.
Since being home, I've noticed since coming home some habits that I've picked up, ways that I've changed, and even things that I never realized I enjoyed.
1. I don't mind prolonged moments of silence (I never thought I would say that).
2. I don't mind disagreeing with people whether it's about films, books, musical taste, or other things. We can agree to disagree. Although, if you dis Gone With the Wind, we might have a problem.
3. I've appreciated being more event-oriented rather than time-oriented.
4. I like beets.
5. I've started noticing how many of the shows and movies I enjoy have an element of cultural engagement or having to get use to a new culture with new rules and norms (Like Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, The Chronicles of Narnia, or even Dr. Who).
When I tell people about some of these things, they ask questions like, "How could you have changed? You were only gone for a short amount of time."
And they're right. I was gone for a short amount of time. But being emerged in a foreign culture does influence you and it can even change you.
While debriefing from the trip with my team, we attended a seminar that prepared us for reverse culture shock and how to really utilize what we've learned. One of the things that we talked about are the three responses to coming back from time abroad whether you're gone for two weeks to thirty years. The responses are as follows.
1. Assimilation: returning from a host culture and eventually slipping back into the culture of one's home culture.
2. Alienation: returning from a host culture, identifying with the host culture, and criticizing the home culture.
3. Integration: identifying with both the home and host culture and bringing together the things one identifies with from both cultures.
When I first listened to the seminar, I definitely wanted to be more of an integrator, but I didn't account for how easy it is to just be an assimilator. Integration is hard and it takes a lot of work to integrate the cultural norms that I appreciated in Poland with the cultural norms that I enjoy at home.
For instance, Poles are quiet and soft spoken. And I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but Americans are loud. It's just plain weird being able to hear conversations that should be in private.
If there's one thing I definitely plan on integrating it is being wise about my volume and what I share in public places.
So, in the aftermath of my time in Poland, I can look back and say that it was an incredible experience. I was so blessed to be able to go. God provided abundantly just to get me there and during my time in the country. He grew me in a lot of ways spiritually, but He also grew me culturally.
As much as I do enjoy my home culture, I also like a lot of things about Polish culture. So I guess it's time to start integrating them.
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