An Adventure in Novelty (Where the Strange is Only Two Steps Away)

Image Credit: Campaign

Image Credit: Campaign

One of my favorite phrases from my Linguistic Anthropology class went like this: “Anthropologists aim to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” (The other favorite was “Studying differences to make a difference,” but that’s beyond the point.)

See, I’ve traveled. A lot. I’ve spent a great deal of my childhood moving around as a result of my Dad’s job, and when I wasn’t moving, I was road tripping to who-knows-where. This included being stationed around California, Rhode Island, and eventually London. I was always the new kid at school, but being the huge ham I was at that age, I didn’t think it was all that bad. Growing up, I thought I had mastered the long commutes, differing time zones, and the general practice of living out of a suitcase. Chief of all, I thought I was immune to culture shock.

After all, I thought of myself as a pretty understanding person. Culture shock was just an adventure in novelty and rolling with the punches:

The kids around you have a different accent? When in Rome.

Brand new classroom makes it abundantly clear your last country’s school had an entirely different curriculum? Time to play catch up. (Side question: How come everyone in 4th grade could rapid-fire spell the name “Mississippi”? It’s unnerving to the uninitiated.)

And the classic: Toilet has a whole bunch of extra buttons for no apparent reason? Desperate times call for desperate measures.

So of course by the time I moved to college, I wasn’t all that worried. What was there to worry about, when I had learned so much from different cultures already and loved it? Besides, my new temporary home couldn’t be too different; I was only a few hours away from my hometown!

Well, strange familiar, and familiar strange.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my university. I loved the city it was in, I loved the people I met, and I loved all of the opportunities I was lucky to have while I was there.

But UCLA was HUGE. And I had spent both my middle and high school years at a tiny school. A tiny performing arts school with a very unique and accepting culture that, honestly, I don’t think I would be the same person without it. UCLA’s culture was, by comparison, very different. Everywhere I went I saw new faces, all day and everyday. To my old high school self, that was inconceivable! But more importantly, every class I took had an even greater variety in students and dispositions: some cheerful, some not. From all of this new and overwhelming input, I found myself constantly adjusting how I perceived people, as well as how I wanted people to perceive me. At the heart of this new and confusing culture, I still wanted to understand it. I wanted to learn to roll with the UCLA punches, so to speak.

And it completely blew my mind when I met people who just didn’t care. (And not in the good way, either.)

I mean, my poor freshman self—there are people out there who don’t care about understanding others! Even within Anthropology, where that was the entire point of the major! But the fact of the matter is, sometimes you meet people that are just looking for an argument or a fight. Sometimes you meet people that might think they’ve got the world all figured out, no matter the discrepancy. And while you may understand that their viewpoint may be a result of their culture/history/simply the way they are, that understanding is no excuse for their behavior.

Sometimes you have to accept that nothing you do will change their minds. And if necessary, you might have to remove yourself from that relationship.

I just didn’t realize that being understanding of people sometimes meant being understanding of people who didn’t care to understand.

It was a heck of a culture shock, let me tell you.

About Jessica Morales

Jessica is the Marketing Director & Publisher of NWYT. With a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and a minor in Music History, she is an avid reader, less frequent writer, and altogether just loves to hear a good story. To that extent, her field of study may have been slightly influenced by a certain movie archaeologist. Read more about her here. See All of Jessica's Posts

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