Culture shock. Is how I would describe my recent trip to Mauritius, but without the negative connotation that sometimes comes with the expression; the experience was nothing like that, or almost.
Culture Shock: “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation” "Culture Shock." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2016.
I was born and raised in Montreal and been fortunate to have explored and travelled a lot within Canada and occasionally within the United States. I consider myself an open-minded person who is always eager to learn new things, but travelling had never been something I had considered to be a learning experience before my trip to Mauritius. Ignorantly, I thought that by living in a multicultural city and being attentive to international news, I had a good understanding of other cultures. Wrong!
When I received the good news that I had been selected to travel to the other side of the world for work, I had some unexpected mixed feelings. I was happy to be an ambassador for Big Bang ERP while in Mauritius, but I was also uncertain of the implications travelling to Africa may have.
The Initial “Shock” was the trip itself. Close to 30-hours of travel time, 2 planes rides and a 9-hours of jet lag later, my 6-hour Canadian road trips felt insignificant comparison.
“The Real Shocker” came when I had to reevaluate my definition of “normal”. In our day-to-day we often criticize what goes against our cultural “norms”.
We stick to those imaginary boundaries we’ve grown attached to that leave us feeling most comfortable. This attachment left me clinging to what I knew, fighting the “normal” of Mauritius. I kept trying to find a comfortable point of reference or brand that I knew. Driving lanes were different, stray cats were replaced by wild dogs, winter by summer; I couldn’t wrap my head around it all. I was analyzing everything around me until I realized that by analyzing everything I saw, I wasn’t allowing myself the opportunity to appreciate where I was and what I was experiencing. Instead, I was comparing everything I saw, smelt, touched and tasted with what I am used to.
From there on, I committed to being completely immersed in Mauritian culture. No hotel, no resort, only a beautiful house in a residential area. After a couple of days and several discussions with my colleagues in Mauritius, I was able to experience and really understand that normality is not something that exists on it’s own; It is a concept that is based on a system of values, on a culture. If you keep comparing and applying your own system of values overtop of the host country’s, you will never really enjoy your trip.
Throughout this experience, I learned what it was to live in Mauritius (not the tourist version). I enjoyed the local foods and went out where the locals go out (with the locals). I learnt that real, authentic experiences are the real “TOP-10 things to do” when you visit a new country, or else you’re only experiencing a watered down, sterile version of the local life.
As I’m sharing this, my trip is almost over and I already feel nostalgic about all the unforgettable memories that this amazing trip to Mauritius has given me. I can sincerely say that this so-called “culture shock” was a real eye-opener and that I’m eager to experience the next one! In the end, I am happy that Big Bang ERP pushed me to step out of my culture zone and into Mauritius.