BY CARL BUSER, RADIUS INTERNATIONAL ALUMNUS
That was the last straw. I’m done with this country. I’m ready to punch this guy in the face, I said to myself silently.
One more time, I spoke slowly–patiently, even–into the phone. “Sir, please, just make the sandwich like you always do. Except this time, just don’t put mayo on it, like I asked. It’s the same sandwich! It’s just that in the process, mayo won’t be added!”
“I am sorry sir, but we do not do custom orders. We do not accept returns or refunds either.”
I now attempted to yell in this new language. “I WILL THROW THIS SANDWICH THROUGH YOUR WINDOW. I DON’T CARE IF YOU WON’T TAKE IT BACK!”
He hung up.
I JUST WANT A SANDWICH. (or, how did it come to this?)
This is it! I’m done. Why can’t someone make a simple sandwich the way that I want it? Are they too stupid to know how to customize an order? I’m tired of local food. I just want a sandwich. Of course, it’s not Chick-fil-A, but it’s better than nothing. Or so I thought. And I hate mayo! How simple is it to just not put mayo on a sandwich?
Guys, culture shock is not a joke. How did I get to this point? The point where I was so mad I yelled at someone over the phone because I didn’t want mayonnaise on my sandwich?
I’m an even-tempered guy; not someone who gets angry. So what happened? I’m a Christian, a follower of Christ who wants people to know Him like I do, and tell others about it, too.
Was my little sandwich tirade Christlike behavior? I don’t know of any culture out there in the world that would see this as honorable and respectable behavior.
CULTURE SHOCK IS REAL.
Anyone who really presses into a new culture and language goes through culture shock. It displays itself in different ways to different people. For me? It was food and ordering food. Couldn’t tell you why, but that’s what my culture shock rage honed in on.
So your menu says you have so and so, but actually you don’t have it. Okey-dokey. I’ll just go somewhere else. You shouldn’t advertise falsely.
It’s funny to look back on this now that I’ve continued to live and begin to thrive in this culture; it happened over a year ago. But when culture shock happens, we need to understand how to channel it and deal with it appropriately. Take a break. Yet remember this isn’t something that just disappears; you need to spend more time in prayer and contemplation. You need friends that notice when you’re going through this stage and can tell you simply to stop being a jerk and consider the source of the things you’re saying (i.e. your heart). It may sound counterintuitive, but continue to depend on locals and learn from them. I believe every behavior makes sense if you have enough information.
There are thousands of unreached language groups with zero access to eternal truth. Powering through culture shock and digging into the culture means you have to fight through hard things. I pray and believe all the painstaking work necessary toward fluency in culture and language will pay off. To be able to stand up and appropriately speak truth into a culture and to our friends is our goal.
And to get there, we can’t yell at people about mayonnaise.
Find out more about experiences from Radius International, Carl’s sending organization, on their page with Go. Serve. Love.
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2 thoughts on “My Story: Culture Shock, Mayonnaise, and the Last Straw”
I liked the honesty. There’s a world of difference between planning on living in a different culture and actually living in the challenges. I love comfort, my food, my space. Me, me , me. Can I really let go of that?
I found your article to be thought provoking and challenging. Thanks.