What is a cultural shock?

Lkhama in Strasbourg, France
Lkhama in Strasbourg, France

Lkhamsuren “Lkhama” Erdenedash is Community Hero at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Murun, Mongolia. In this post she describes her impressions during her trip to Europe to attend BridgeBuilder Summit 2018.

What is a cultural shock? It is a big question and everybody faces with it in various ways in my opinion. For the country girl who has never been abroad, who has never seen this kind of big airport, busy people, many gates and terminals, this kind of speed, everything was brand new, too fast, too developed and too tight. In one word, it was a cultural shock! From Ulaanbaatar to Moscow, we flew for 6 hours, taking off at 7:10 am from Chinggis airport and landing at 8:45 am at Sheremetova airport. 1 hour and 35 minutes – my shock has just started.

When we landed at the Frankfurt airport, the very first attractive things were dark green trees and grass everywhere. Super duper! And then the airport: we have rode one kind of bus or metro from one point to the other point of the airport for several minutes in order to reach the train station. So huge! When I got into the train, it was not a train I expected. Even it has a WI-FI. Very civilized and equipped with comfort!

Very different from Mongolia: the Black Forest
Very different from Mongolia: the Black Forest

Running from the train station, we reached the bus station and the bus was free or did I misunderstand? There was almost no car and nobody in the street like silent and sleepy town. If we were in Ulaanbaatar at that time, there you could see Ulaanbaatar’s evening life which boils very hard but cheerful. Very different! After the bus, we met a man from the black Jukebox and he was supposed to be a tall gentleman as European. But he was very simple, kind and supportive, not very BIG in size Carsten. Very nice! At last, I have traveled for 24 for hours from Mongolia without almost no sunset. Wonderful!

What makes the German unique is their kindness. “Ladies are first” rule really works in Germany and Frankfurt. They are always eager to help the people especially for ladies I have found. When 2 of us were at the train station while observing our train ticket, one German gentleman came to us and explained about the train station and tickets very clearly however we did not ask. I was very appreciated his effort, while I was shocked culturally. In Mongolia we do not see this kind of supportive things all the time however I love and proud of my Mongolia.

Lkhana (2. to left) in a workshop at BridgeBuilder Summit
Lkhana (2. to left) in a workshop at BridgeBuilder Summit

We have started our first day with hiking around the place we would stay for 7 days: Black forest. The weather: was PERFECT. Raining very softly, shining brightly and smoothly makes the German, Frankfurt or Black Forest weather unique and wonderful. Now I do not wonder why do foreign ladies’ face skin is perfect: clean, soft and shiny. The weather makes their skin PERFECT. There is not dust and dryness: there is only humid, soft, smooth and fresh air everywhere. I even did not use any make up or some kinds of things on my face because of the Black Forest weather, too. It was so awesome and surprising for me to feel my skin PERFECT.

We, the community heroes, country managers and some other people have had workshops for 3 days and I was astonished by the workshop led by Monika about humans mindset which was held on 2nd day. During that time, I was thinking about my teachers. If they had not told me that “You are the best” when I was in the secondary school, I would not stop my studying and learning maybe. Maybe this is the way I am supposed to be or maybe more than this, who knows. But on the other hand, I am the person who is grateful for everything I have today! For the very first time, I thought about it and found out that a human being is a very strange creature in the world. Thank you Monika!

Lkhama at the summit site in the Black Forest
Lkhama at the summit site in the Black Forest

I have translated the word “Summit” into Mongolian and it said that it is a conference. So then, I thought “Ok, we will sit at a round table and discuss about the things very seriously like “UN conference” I have seen many times on TV. But I was wrong: summit is a thing to make the family members get together, to meet each other, to talk and discuss about many ideas, problems and issues, to share experiences, to guide each other, to inspire each other, to help and support each other, to give others opportunities, to give others a chance to improve and develop, to have fun and to spend time memorable. What kind of gift I have received!

The moments I enjoyed a lot were free activity day and the workshop with Carsten about BOOKBRIDGE future. Outdoor activity day, we had divided into groups according to our interests and I was in the group to make a boat with Bookbridge logo on it. It was fun and also, I have learnt how to make a boat with my boy to spend the time creative and fun with him! I appreciate creativity. When Carsten talked about the Bookbridge future: what we have done and what we are going to be in the future, I have totally found that to what destination I could reach with Bookbridge. I have found that there is a bright light in the ending part of very long green street and I have to reach that point. That is my goal in the future, I have understood and also it is very nice to feel that I have something to reach, to love, to fulfill, to share and to learn every day. It seemed to me like I have found the way after I had lost in the forest. I like this feeling and inspiration!

Now, few words about the evenings at Black Forest. We sang songs together, learnt Bookbridge song; had Black forest cake, one kind of tea with ghost of the ruin; enjoyed Sri Lankan traditional and beautiful dance by Sujitha, one kind of yoga exercise with broom; played games; sang Mongolian songs; in one we had fun every evening with German beer and wines in the evenings after workshops.

The greatest moments in my brain were not only these from the summit, you could be sure but I have mentioned the highlights. I was really shocked and astonished by the things I have seen during this trip as I am seeing the Seven Wonders of the World. My stomach was always churning during the trip which reason I really did not understand. I was thinking that I am strong, smart and also flexible country lady with one husband and one baby boy. But in reality it was totally wrong, I have found. I was nothing, contrasting to the others but I am the one who has a very good growth mindset which makes me happy, confident and ambitious for my future.

The people: were DIAMONDS in the sky. There were too many supportive, fun and enthusiastic people: sharing their ideas, learning and experiencing from each other’s, spending time together in beneficial ways, enjoying everything they have make me proud of themselves and want to be like them.

Now, I want to say a very few words about the food. We live on food! The cheeses: were SUPER! Every morning we had cheese for breakfast and it was one of my dream to have wonderful cheese for my breakfast with fresh loaves of bread. So super!

We visited the French town named Strassbourg just after the Summit and spent the day beautifully except walking a lot to make my feet turn around. Have seen wine tree lines by train windows, real Merry go round, magnificent Cathedral, big brand shops and beautiful colorful roses, tasted real French meals and pastries, visited very interesting dark restroom and then I have understood that how people are preserving and using their heritage and their possessions in simple and efficient way, not destroying and changing them. I appreciated it very much and proud of the people who are doing great, hearth touching and precious things. Seeing is believing!

Finally I had to fly back to Mongolia and then, I again understood that I will miss Black Forest with its cake and memories. So I want to suggest you that sometimes somebody has to face and feel the cultural shock. It would be the perfect memory in your lifetime. Life is surprising and the world is big enough to be surprised and shocked!

The funniest moment was not only the cultural shock in Germany, but also the shock when I stepped into my house. It was a disaster like bombed and really SHOCKED again! The shock never ends 🙂

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