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The Shock of Culture


Regional, ethnic, religious - thousands of cultures surround our day-to-day lives. They mingle and disperse - little snowflakes in the whole flurry of a storm. And every culture is unique, lending its own special contributions to society. It’s an incredible, kaleidoscopic pattern creating the beauty of life.


In the United States alone, countless cultures are at play. Southern and Northern. African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic. Hearing and Deaf. There are large cultures, and there are variances of cultures throughout cities. The mannerisms of people, the food, the diversity - they all change the farther along the highway you get. It’s a shock, to see and be in so many cultures, but it’s a special sort of shock.


We, as military teens, are able to experience these cultures first-hand; seeing our nation through a different lens. Our transient lives have provided us with a unique point of view of America. Instead of living one way of life, our personal beliefs and ideals are shaped by many.


When I get worked up, sometimes a southern accent sneaks into my words, something I can attribute to my time in Georgia. I have a taste for authentic Mexican food, a taste that came from living in El Paso. My room has an abundance of Talavera pottery - little gifts and souvenirs from shops in Mexico. I love both the big-city and small-town feel. I hold riverwalks and mountain hikes precious to my heart. I’ve learned the history of Texas and the history of Kansas.


Those are all little bits of the big picture of culture. I take little pieces and fit them into my puzzle. And you do the same. Every single place you’ve lived is still inside you.


Our transient lives lend us a new point of view on the world. Many of us have lived overseas, being completely immersed in a new and different culture. The road laws, the age hierarchy, the television, the radio, the food, the schools, the language, the architecture - all of it is different. There are so many variations, all unlike our own, and all of which we learn to live in.


And, yes, it shocks us. Culture shock is ever present in the military community. Of course, being thrust into a society unlike your own is unsettling. Your norms stick out like a sore thumb, and what you’re used to is no longer there. We need to relearn how to live, adhering to the social customs of the new culture, but we readily accept those challenges.


Learning to adapt isn’t always easy, yet we do it repeatedly. We are adaptable, accepting new cultures as a point of pride. They help us grow, shaping us into who we are. And we are unique, an interesting blend of all the places we’ve loved and lived. But, overall, we are strong, and we are capable. We live this life with enthusiasm, accepting these new cultures as parts of our own.


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