Undiagnosed Culture Shock

By: Kristine, Co-Director Jakarta

For over 3 months, I had culture shock and didn’t know it.

It was while I was in Jogja during May that I finally realised that I had been caught in Indonesian culture shock since I got here at the end of January, and that I had only recently exited it.
Our lovely Jakarta volunteers

I remember quite clearly the minute it occurred to me. I had just left Ullen Sentalu museum and was driving through a picturesque part of the countryside, headed to Prambanan, when it hit me. I like Indonesia. In fact, I’m happy that I’m here and experiencing life in Southeast Asia. I finally realised that before that moment, I was suspended in like it/dislike it limbo because I had allowed myself to focus too much on the differences between what I was used to and where I am now.

Tegalalang Waterfall in Ubud
When I left Jamaica, I honestly never thought about culture shock as a possibility. I was too excited to be on my way to live in a totally new place. Also, I’ve been travelling since I was a toddler so I wouldn’t exactly call myself unexposed. Because of these things, it never occurred to me that I would have difficulty adjusting to life here.

I’m not sure when I got over it. It may been when one of our local volunteers here in Jakarta generously tried to help me with my Indonesian, just because.  Seeing the beauty of Bali’s Ubud and watching the sun rise behind Jogja’s Mt. Merapi helped, for sure. One of my cabbies to the airport during my monthly days off enthusiastically singing along with me to Lionel Ritchie’s “Stuck On You” was a part of it (fun times). My Indonesian friend stopping to buy me ‘honey’ snake fruit as we zoomed through the Jogja countryside, just because they thought I’d like it, was a definite contributor.
Sunrise behind Smoking Mt. Merapi
That afternoon, as I made my way to Prambanan, I realised that what had really brought me out of my culture shock was the natural beauty of the places I had seen and the kind and generous people of this country.

Yup. I definitely like Indonesia.

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