I am home and experiencing a distinct lack of culture shock. I experienced a greater culture shock when going from a northern village to the bustling capital Accra. One reason for this lack is that people are people all over the world. We all have the same needs and it is merely how we meet those needs that differ between cultures, inspiring the “culture shock.”
I have experienced a “culture awareness” since coming home. Our culture is unfriendly to each other, but even more so to visitors. I first noticed this with the foreign exchange students at university who are kept in their own dorm and make friends with each other because very few Canadians make an effort to connect with them. How do immigrants do? I think the plethora of neighbourhoods full of a single nationality reveal how well Canadians have done. Do people come to Canada just to start a “little Somalia” or “little Italy” or whatever other neighbourhoods there are? I don’t know, but I seriously doubt the first immigrants aspired to a continuation of the country they left. Keeping some of your mother culture and tongue is a good thing but doing it because you were not welcomed by those who live in the new place is a sorry situation.
Though I complained earlier about being called “white lady” or “salaminga” my colour could be a serious benefit when I needed help. Ghanaians would watch me and as soon as I looked confused or lost the nearest person would jump to help me. The number of times women grabbed my hand to show me the washroom and how to use it surpasses a dozen. I have a found memory of a degbani speaking lady indicating how to use a urinal. If she looked down on me for not knowing I she didn’t show it.
I was never laughed at or patronized during the many lessons I received and I appreciated how straightforward everyone was. Do we do that here? I think more often we simply avoid dealing with strangers because we don’t want to rude or make them uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t want help or maybe they were born here and we can’t help? this could all be true, but lets not use them as an excuse to be passive.
I’m not saying we should suddenly start asking every person we see if they need help, but let us all strive to be more open and available to everyone. Be conscious about connecting with strangers every day and maybe we can slowly change our country into one that accepts foreigners and is as friendly as it is polite.