It's two days after Christmas and I am in SWEDEN with my lovely Swedish "Family". I'm so grateful for their care. On the note of international travels and heading towards New Years Reflections, I'm sharing with you the last piece in my correspondance with Peter Eckert. In this final piece, he talks about bridging the gap between how we talk about and describe cultural transition and what we can actually do in the midst of it.
It may not be advice you want to hear [see previous posts], or that I want to live, but embrace the struggle. Live it fully and deeply. Don’t try to rush the process, and don’t become resentful of it. I’ve tried both, and neither is helpful. Let the change happen in its own time, and have grace upon yourself while you wait. God uses your imperfections as quiet blessings, so don’t embrace them, but be okay with feeling the imperfection. Your joys aren’t what mold you as a person, your struggles are, and as crummy as they are, they’re also a priceless gift.
That’s all abstraction. Concretely, your best bet is to “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Do what you enjoy, make close friends there, and live as fully as you can. Life is best when you keep occupied without pre-occupation, so find a passion and live it actively in the context of the new culture. It sounds like you’re re-discovering dancing; that’s awesome, and dancing is an easy cross-cultural activity. It’ll also help you make friends and learn the language, which are probably the two most important steps in successful transitioning. In the same vein, I’d recommend developing a taste for some of the things that your Bulgarian friends enjoy. If you can do that, you’ll kill a ton of birds with one stone; it’ll be that much easier and more enjoyable to spend time with them, and it’ll be you actively assisting the change process.
I guess in sum, speaking from what I know, when I look back at the little of life I’ve lived so far, I don’t remember the culture-shock or difficulty as much as I remember the friends I had, the risks I took, and the adventure I lived. If I could advise with one word, it would be “Do.” (It would also be good to journal, if only so that in years to come you could look back and laugh, or gasp at how far you’ve come).