Intercultural Communication scholars love to talk about stages; stages that describe how an individual moves from being a naive, easily identifiable newbie to a satisfied cultural local.
As helpful as these stages are, I would like to dwell on an oft-derided, belittled and tsk, tsked stage: the honeymoon stage. Most articles about culture shock give little more than a few sentences to this stage. To many, honeymoons are simply a place holder, a novice’s fanciful grasp of reality that takes place right before he or she moves on to the really depressing stages where reality will teach them a thing or two about fascination and positivity.
It’s no secret. I am a sucker for a good honeymoon. A respected colleague of mine actually teaches this stage by telling the story of a time I was particularly struck with the beauty of a driveway as we entered our Swiss hostel. He knew, in his experienced and skeptical mind, it wouldn’t take long before I started complaining about the flatness of the pillows and the weird smell coming from the kitchen. Yes, I am the poster child for the honeymoon stage.
First, let me define the honeymoon stage. According to Kalevro Oberg (1960), in the honeymoon stage “the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light”. Individuals feel excited, adventurous, courageous, positive, and fascinated. The beauty of a place overshadows the uncomfortable and distasteful aspects. Some call it naive and unrealistic. I call it the best part of life. I call it taking the time to see beauty and letting yourself feel the rush of new experiences and uncertainties. I call it the stuff dreams are made of.
So let me share with you part of my Polish honeymoon. Today, I got on tram number 2 and took it to the end of the line–somewhere off toward the eastern horizon–I mean, why not? I found a mall. Not just any mall, but a beautiful mall. I found a Wal-mart-like
store that had untold isles of food and home goods. I almost cried. It was beautiful. I had the most beautiful cup of cappuccino I have ever had–the lady put a heart in it! And the bakery thing I had–unbelievable. And that was just today! I love my apartment. I love the smell of my apartment. I love the little store 1 block away from my apartment. I love the lady in the meat department who doesn’t know English, but always smiles when I try to tell her how much of that wiener thing I want. I love the trams–they go everywhere. I love my new office–it is beautiful. I love my new colleague. She is so nice and patient. I love the ceremony in the middle of town to celebrate Nicolas
Copernicus’ birth with flowers and a band that played the national anthem (I think). I love the river that winds around the edge of town. I love the little crisp of the cucumbers they always hide in sandwiches. I love the families who go for walks on Sunday, holding hands and keeping the children from being run over by speeding cars. I love the little pugs who ride the trams. They always seem to have little smiles on their faces. I love the cozy cafes and restaurants with
twinkling lights left over from Christmas. I love the trains where I can do crossword puzzles and not be bothered by someone’s conversation because I don’t understand it anyway. I love these little donuts called paczkis that taste like an angel made them and gently put them in the bakery window just for me.
So, if you were wondering about my time in Poland, no worries. I am on a honeymoon. I’m sure it won’t last forever, but I hope I can always find a little honeymoon in the mundane tasks of daily living. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?