Posted in culture shock, encouragement, jesus, the world

The very real effects of culture shock, Part 1

Part 1: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock.
Part 2: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock on the Christian, this time from a Christian worldview.
Part 3: What to do about those stresses.


Laundromat in Baños, Ecuador. It cost a quarter and they give you
a rock to use to scrub. Soap not included. EPrata photo

In the Introduction to this Culture Shock series, I’d related several expatriate experiences I’d had while visiting abroad for longer than usual vacation periods. There are very real stresses which emerge physiologically, mentally, and emotionally when chooses to dwell in a nation in which one was not born. This fact also applies even when a person has moved from one nation to the next and their native language is spoken in both places, such as moving from the US to the UK, or Canada to Australia. Culture shock is a real event.

I’d mentioned that in these days with quickly shifting cultural sands disorienting us and putting us off balance, Christians experience a similar culture shock. The earth is not our home. In that sense we are expatriates. Our citizenship is in heaven.

Expatriates find that they experience stress while living abroad. In this essay I’ll look at the stresses expatriates experience from a secular perspective. In the next essay I’ll compare these stresses to the Christian’s experience of living on earth while not being OF the earth, heaven’s expatriates, as it were.

I do want to mention that I’m not a fan of Psychology or secular counseling, but the fact is the body and mind do go through physiological changes when living under pressure in an unfamiliar culture in which one is NOT trying to assimilate. It’s hard when we are in the world but not trying to reach the world nor adopt the world’s habits. Let’s acknowledge it’s stressful. The following is from The Expat Exchange. Though they were written for the secular Expat, one can see the pattern can be applied to the citizen of Heaven in today’s hostile World. I’ll explore this more in the next essay. And incidentally, I am sure that missionaries are given a thorough grounding in what to expect when moving overseas, but the shock of adjusting to being there can’t be learned from a classroom, but experienced mentally, physically and emotionally.

Top Ten Reasons why Expats get stressed

1) Long and unusual work hours due to doing business in different time zones and a 70%-of-the-year travel schedule for the working spouse.

2) A “trailing expat spouse” who has given up a career to move abroad with his or her working spouse and is adjusting to not only a new country, but a new lifestyle.

3) New stresses for our expat children: a new school, new multi-cultural friends, a different native language, new teachers and teaching methods, and not to mention, full immersion into a culture other than their own.

4) As new expats, our most comfortable support system of friends and family have gone from being neighbors and parents to voices on the phone or words on an email. Creating a new local support system takes a lot of time and emotional energy, and can be a stressful endeavor, especially for first time expats.

5) A certain amount of lost independence due to language barriers is stressful, making everything from arranging for house repairs to ordering a pizza over the phone very frustrating.

6) The dynamics of an expat marriage inevitably change with the new responsibilities and roles that come along with a move overseas, creating a certain amount of stress for each spouse.

7) For “Single Global Professionals,” between building a social network outside of work without the benefit of a spouse, and not having a sense of “community” or roots, being abroad alone can be both a stressful and lonely place to be.

8) Finances. In many instances, home leaves, house hold expenses and medical procedures/visits are all paid out-of-pocket before employer reimbursement (depending on your employer situation), so having a healthy savings account and good credit is a must to move abroad.

9) Being Unhappy. Having a negative attitude or feelings about where you are; unrealistic expectations of your new life in your new country, and expecting perfectionism from yourself and the culture around you is a breeding ground for self-induced stress and a recipe for marital unhappiness. Your unhappiness is a feeling even your children pick up on.

10) Poor stress coping skills.

Ponder these, and think about them both in terms of the intent of the original article aimed toward secular expats, but also think of them in terms of being a Christian expat. Tomorrow, I’ll re-phrase the above top ten stresses into Christian expat stresses and perhaps they will speak to what you may be going through.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Part 1: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock.
Part 2: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock on the Christian, this time from a Christian worldview.
Part 3: What to do about those stresses.


Further reading

How can Believers be in the world but not of the World?

What does it mean for Christians to be in the world but not of the world?

Blog Series at Grace to You, In the World, but not of it

Posted in culture shock, encouragement, expatriate, the world

The very real effects of culture shock, Introduction

This is an Introduction to a series.

Part 1: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock.
Part 2: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock on the Christian, this time comparing the effects through a lens of the Christian worldview.
Part 3: What to do about those stresses.


Visible Christianity as it has been known for these past decades is declining in the West. Of course the true church still spotless and gleaming white. But the surface “Christian-y” (not Christianity) culture in America is fast falling away. It has been a disorienting process for some. The ground is made of shifting violently sand, and especially unaware or new Christians, have been put off balance.

Friends quickly anger if you talk negatively about a favored idol-teacher. Facebook comment sections blow up in anger from previously mild-mannered friends. Family members are irritated by all your Jesus talk. Work spaces no longer tolerate your prayer lunch group- if it’s Christian. Muslim employees receive a private prayer room and Halal cafeteria. Portrayals of our faith in media have become simply cartoonish. All this and more gives the Christian coming to terms with the new normal (read: hostile world) a feeling of upset and disorientation.

It’s culture shock. That is because the moment we’re justified, our citizenship transfers from the world to heaven. We become expatriates, dwelling in a place that is not our home any longer.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog and my other blog that during the 1990s I traveled widely. My husband and I loved to pick up and go, and the sub-text was that we would also keep our eyes open for a warm weather, inexpensive place to winter over. Maine is cold. Brrr.

We spent time in Florida, Texas, the desert of the American Southwest, but also the Bahamas, and Ecuador. We traveled to Europe but it seemed too expensive to become an expatriate in those places. The European Union hadn’t been formed yet, and even after it was, the borders were still pretty tight in those early days. Of course as Maine residents, we visited Canada frequently but as a winter getaway for snowbirds, well, it defeats the purpose.

The sprawling city of Quito, Ecuador. EPrata photo

We liked Ecuador a lot. At the time, American money would last a long time there. The government had been pretty stable, and thanks to Ecuadoreans we knew, we were given a tour from north to south. My husband I liked Cuenca, a colonial city of universities and at a lower altitude than Quito. The height of Quito’s location at nearly 10,000 feet made for pretty thin air and a long time to cook anything, so we liked Cuenca which was at about 8200 feet above sea level. Warm, but not hot like at the seacoast or the jungle.

When we were in Quito, we found a cool bookstore called Confederate Books. It is touted as South America’s best selection of English-language books. Indeed, I found a rare Brautigan there. We spoke to the owner, who was from America, for a long time about what it is like to live as an “ex-pat.” An Expatriate is someone who lives outside their native country. It’s a person who is settled in another land. We were considering living in Ecuador for the mild winters down at the equator. Though we were in Ecuador for a month, we knew there was a huge difference between visiting and living in a third world nation.

Culture shock is an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment which is different from one’s own; it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, or a move between social environments… Source

After our conversation at Confederate Books, we emerged into the strong equatorial light onto Amazonas St, which is the bustling main shopping street in the high-altitude city of millions, we began walking toward where the restaurants were. My husband had a special kind of belt where he kept the money and copies of our passports for ID etc. Since we were always together, he carried the money and papers for us both. Pickpockets were a huge problem. As we walked, we began talking as we were jostled in the crowd, and then we began arguing. I don’t remember what over. Angry, at one point I turned on my heel and stomped off in the other direction.

The crowd quickly closed in and within a minute I realized I had done something very stupid. I was a woman alone, in a non-English speaking country (and not many Quitenos spoke English) and I had no ID and no money. It was in my husband’s belt, who had now disappeared from sight and was lost in the crowd. I couldn’t even take a cab back to the rental apartment, nor was there anyone home for me to call even if I managed to find a phone, scrape some coins, and know how to dial in a third world country. (This was pre-cell phone days). Suddenly my sunny shopping day was fraught with danger and anxiety. I quickly turned around and hustled to find my husband.

Life as an expatriate requires significant effort to adapt to new social and cultural environments. Source
In my inaugural trip of my decade of traveling, I spent a month alone in Italy. The first week was with an ex-pat American family my mother had known. The last two weeks I was going to meet up with a group and I would participate in an archaeological dig. So in reality I was only totally on my own for a week. I wanted to make my way down from Milan where the plane had landed, to the Italian Riviera to Siena, Florence, then Rosia, the little Tuscan town where the dig was going to happen.

What living in Italy for a week all on my own meant was that reading train schedules, ordering food in a restaurant, finding the grocery store, completing a reservation at a hotel, had to be done by no one else but me, all by myself in a foreign language with no support system. Finding attractions, safely walking the streets, handling money and making sure I received the correct change, etc, was all very taxing. Not knowing what to do with even the smallest of details gives you a fight or flight feeling. One is never sure if one is stumbling into a dangerous situation or not. All the signals are mixed.

Me in Portofino, Italy

Traveling from Portofino to Florence we hurtled through mountains and the train would go through tunnels. At one point I was standing outside my little compartment and a nice looking well dressed Italian gentleman tried to start a conversation. I had no clue if he was hitting on me, casing my pockets, or something else. It was something else. He said through gestures that when we go thru a tunnel it’s a good time for pickpockets to grab what they can from your person or your luggage. He was patiently trying to give me a warning. He recommended sitting back in my compartment with my valuables on me. I went from being scared of him to being scared of pickpockets during the brief but frequent tunnel blackouts.

When you’re alone in a strange land, you have no idea who is a threat or what situation is safe or could lead to disaster. You have no idea that a benign situation could suddenly explode into a dangerous one, or a trying one, or a misunderstanding one. Your normal reactions are all off.

Culture shock is a real thing. Shock being the focus. Here is some information from Expat Exchange on the stress of living abroad in another culture. Here is the ExPat Exchange-

It only takes six weeks and one foreign language for the average expat to figure out that life overseas is not for the faint of heart. …

What is stress?

According to “stress is a particular pattern of disturbing psychological and physiological reactions that occur when an environment event threatens important motives and taxes one’s ability to cope. In plain English, stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment.”

This 4-part series is one of encouragement. Here is the point, if you have not seen it by now.

Christians are expatriates.

Let me say that again. This world is not our home. We are born on earth, we live on earth, and we are OF the world … until the moment of justification. When we are saved, our citizenship immediately transfers to Heaven, and we become strangers in this land. (Philippians 3:20). Those around us are enemies of us becuase they are at enmity with the God in us. (Romans 8:7). We still live here, but we are strangers. We think of heaven, we long for heaven, we are of heaven. (Colossians 3:2). The citizens of earth consider us their enemy (consciously or unconsciously). We are not of this world, but we are still in this world. (John 17:14–19).

Lately, pressures have been building even for those fortunate enough to have been placed by God in nations where persecution is not overtly occurring. Christians are finding that we are standing on very shifting sand as expatriates. The times are changing rapidly and hostility against us here in the former land of free speech are living through a culture shift that, taxes our ability to cope. As the ExPat Exchange site mentioned, living for a prolonged time in a nation that is not our own and is in fact hostile to us taxes us to the point of stress, where physiological reactions occur.

Culture shock, personal loss, and discouragement are at all time highs, just as discernment is at all time lows. It’s taxing all right.

Of course, over this series, I will reiterate that unlike earthly expatriates, we have the Spirit in us to help us live tranquilly even if everything around us is being dismantled. So our experience isn’t exactly like other expatriates, but it is similar and I’d like for us to recognize the real stresses many of the brethren are enduring.

This was the introduction. So what’s next?

Part 1: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock.
Part 2: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock on the Christian, this time comparing the effects through a lens of the Christian worldview.
Part 3: What to do about those stresses.

Posted in dubai, end of days. prophecy, end time, rapture, the world, tower of babel

Dubai unfinished development sinks back into the sea

Note: the headline is all theirs.

The end of The World: Dubai island development sinks back into sea after being scuppered by financial crisis

It exemplified the booming property market and ambition of Dubai’s entrepreneurs. But after the global financial crisis led to the collapse of the emirate’s home-building market, a unique development known as ‘The World’ is reportedly facing Armageddon. The project, a man-made archipelago designed to resemble a map of the planet, is facing disaster as its islands have begun sinking, a tribunal heard this week. The development, which sits a mile and a half from the mainland, is all but vacant after investors who bought up its ‘nations’ saw their finances collapse after the economic crash.

The end of The World: A near-empty property development in Dubai is sinking

A company that ferries people to the islands is now seeking to withdraw from its contract with Nakheel, developers of The World, due to a lack of business and the erosion of the islands’ sands. Richard Wilmot-Smith QC, a British lawyer for Penguin Marine, told a property tribunal the islands are ‘gradually falling back into the sea’. He added there was evidence of the ‘erosion and deterioration of The World islands’. Only one of the ‘nations’ – Greenland is inhabited currently, with Dubai’s ruler owning a show home on the island. While Nakheel deny penguin Marine’s contention that the project is ‘dead’, the firm admits The World has slipped into ‘a coma’. ‘This is a ten-year project which has slowed down,’ he told the tribunal. ‘This is a project which will be completed.’ He added Penguin would see a return on its investment.

Facing extinction? This virtual photo of the Europe section of The World shows the dream of the Dubai project, not its sad reality

That’s the price Penguin makes to stay in the game,” he said. ‘They have the potential to earn millions.’ The tribunal found for Nakheel on Thursday, with full reasoning to come later. A spokesman for Nakheel insisted the islands were not sinking. ‘Our periodical monitoring survey over the past three years didn’t observe any substantial erosion that requires sand nourishment,’ a statement said. The World has already experienced its fair share of problems, with the businessman who bought the Ireland residence committing suicide after the collapse of his company while a London businessman who paid £43million for the Britain island was jailed for seven years last year for bouncing cheques. The claims of the erosion of The World comes as a Reuters poll showed Dubai’s house prices are set to fall by another 10 per cent over the next two years. Property prices in the emirate have fallen 58 per cent from their peak in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Here is an interesting promo video for The World:

The World islands are next door to the more famous man-made palm looking islands:

Kind of reminds me of the sudden halt of the Tower of Babel.