Tuesday, April 26, 2011

stages of culture shock

I just finished my IPE (International Programs and Exchanges) Orientation last night.

In the booklets they passed out, there is a chapter devoted to the stages of cultural adjustment.  Briefly, they are:
1. the honeymoon period
2. irritability/hostility
3. discovery of perspective
4. feeling at home

When I traveled to Denmark and Korea, I really did experience these stages (though I did not map them out so concretely in my head).  Unfortunately, I only spent 10 days in Denmark and 2 weeks in Korea, so I never quite reached the fourth stage in either place.

I know what it will be like to reach the fourth stage, however.  I made it through all four when I came to UW, (for I came from a radically different upbringing, so UW truly was a foreign culture.)  It is easy to remember how fascinated I was by the city at first, and then how I plunged into semi-depression (though not homesickness!) at the initial loneliness.

Speaking of loneliness, I am concerned about stage 2 in that aspect.  Making friends is really important to the transition from stage 2 to 3.  While I anticipate making friends among the UW students that are going, I also really hope to meet some Brits.  I know we will not be living right alongside them, necessarily, so I predict that will be something of a challenge.  I didn't do so well with this part in Denmark or Korea, but in retrospect, it took me two weeks to even out at UW, so it could be that I simply did not have enough time abroad to adjust.

Is it politically correct to call them "Brits?"  I know "Japs" definitely isn't an okay abbreviation.  But "Danes" for Danish citizens seems to be acceptable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


How does one become a Princess?  Most of the answers that people will give today are in terms of "inheritance," where a woman will either be born or marry into a royal family to receive the title.

Now, in medieval Europe, where intermarriage between social classes was considered even more ridiculous than today, how would one become a princess?  With luck and enough knights in your (Lord) Father's army to conquer the incumbent King/Queen and their offspring.

The second option really isn't that appealing.  (A lot of things from the medieval period are, in general, somewhat unsavory.)  The Princess Diaries would have been really different from that perspective.

I try not to dwell on the fact that inherited glory is generally more tempting than self-earned glory.  My work ethic itches a bit to think that the current Windsor family has lived a pretty cushy life without ever having to consider the common man's definition of "work."  I recognize that the royal family lives with constrictions that the average American can shrug off-> when (if ever) it is appropriate to burp or scratch one's nose, if they can ever suffer the indignity of learning to snowboard or play video games, or what costumes are appropriate at Halloween parties (I'm looking at you, Harry.)

So where does that leave Kate?  Her beginnings don't appear flamboyant -> her parents were airline employees (though, I admit that I do not understand the finer points of British socio-economic status; perhaps the position of stewardess is lucrative in England.)  Her decision to date Prince William came with an extra fifty pounds of etiquette and the loss of all privacy.

I was especially intrigued by the fight that the couple allegedly had a few years ago.  How does one "dump" a Prince?  It is easily feasible that she felt burdened by the extraordinary relationship, but the breakup would have been just as extraordinary.

In my very narrow worldview, Kate is either an unbelievably mature young woman with strong values, or she has a very acute sense of ambition.  I'd really like to believe the former, but nowadays, when reality shows demonstrate just how insane humans will become for their five minutes of fame, the latter is not beyond belief.

However, if indeed she is riding William's coattails, then she is really, really good at faking a smile.

Monday, April 11, 2011

pre-departure: relative ignorance

Images that come to mind when I think of "modern" England and the United Kingdom:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (film, 1975)
Atonement (novel, Ian McEwan, 2001; film, 2007) 

Old Gregg - The Mighty Boosh (comedy show, 2004-2007)

At least Atonement had some historical basis.  I wonder if the average Brit is aware of what pop culture points have jumped the Atlantic to serve as ambassadors.  I wonder what the Brits think of when they think American pop culture.  Please God let them not know about Jersey Shore.