Reverse Culture Shock: Teaching the Somalians about America

When traveling to poorer countries, one is often faced with culture shock over the wretched conditions, lack of sanitation, dismal food and extraordinarily poor quality of life.

But what happens when the opposite occurs? What happens when someone leaves their mud hut in Africa and travels to a place like America? Can you just imagine the culture shock one would experience under such circumstances?

Well, this is an everyday occurrence for many refugees who have been granted political asylum in the United States. Before arriving, however, they must first take a crash-course about their new home.

Edmund Sanders from the Los Angeles Times sat in on one of these three-day classes for Somalian refugees temporarily living in Kenya.

The “cultural orientation class” is taught by the International Organization for Migration thanks to funding from the U.S. State Department. It introduces students to the wonders and horrors they might expect to find in the United States.

The article is rather hilarious. So many things we take for granted have to be introduced for the very first time, such as flushing toilets, lighting a stove, buying bus tickets, flipping on light switches, and even working a door knob. And then there is snow. The concept of a white, very cold substance that falls from the sky is very difficult to grasp for those who have never felt temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

It so very strange to learn how much we take for granted here in the first world and how little of it is experienced in places like Africa. Reading the article is both fascinating and disheartening at the same time.

I do, however, have to point out the most hilarious quotes in the article. After learning about the 911 emergency hotline, one of the Somalian students responded, “So if anyone bothers me, I just call 911 and the police come and beat them?”

Oh yes indeed; America, the Promised Land.