When Does Culture Shock Kick In?






The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever…or so my advisors told me before I came to Chile, but I don’t know how much I believe them. I know I should probably be more open to the possibility that I might not be this excited about living in Santiago in the (possibly near) future, but I really can’t help it when everything is so great! In the past week, I have spent a lot of time trying to absorb the culture surrounding me. The reason being that I want to experience culture shock as soon as I can so that I can be done with it sooner. I know you might be thinking, “Jessica, that’s not the point of studying abroad. You have to let yourself live through the experience.” Well, let me tell you how scared I am. During pre-departure orientation at my home university, my advisors showed me this chart:

scary chart

Yeah, they showed all of us this, as if it wasn’t going to freak us out. Well, at first, it didn’t freak me out, but then during my host university’s orientation, they showed us this chart too, and it was then that I began to fear for my sanity because that meant this chart was serious. If you look at the chart, you notice that the decline looks like a slow and painful downfall. Not only that, but it seems like the trough, or the low point in the wave, lasts quite a while. This is scary, and while it seems to be inevitable and completely out of my control, I thought I could try to fasten the process by being hyper-observant of the culture of the city, but it seems to me that I just keep getting happier and happier about being here. Here are two reasons why:

People are so active in this city. Every time I walk past a park, the park is filled with people. People are always out and about. Something that has caught my eye while I am at parks is the number of activities I see taking place. I’ve seen people doing yoga, boxing, working out, walking on a rope,  having picnics, hammocking, kids playing on the playgrounds, dogs chasing each other for hours–basically everything! I love that parks are not dead here because they always remind me to go outside more and enjoy the beauty of the world. 

                    Two of my friends at a park in Providencia, Santiago de Chile

The second reason why I’m so happy to be here is how nice people are to dogs. Stray dogs are prevalent in the city, but something I have noticed is how well taken care of they are. Everyone here loves these dogs.

Last Thursday, I was on my way to school and I got onto the bus like I do every morning, and I saw a dog just laying down in the back of the bus. He was nobody’s and everybody’s dog, just like every other stray dog. I witness two guys pet the little guy before they got off on their stop. Nobody seemed to mind the dog–he was just part of society like everyone else and he was respected.

Another instance when I noticed stray dogs were loved in this city was when I went to a restaurant on Sunday with a group of friends. There was a dog walking by the restaurant and he decided to walk into the patio area, he walked around the tables and was pet by some of the people. Later, a waitress came out, and I expected her to shoo the dog away, but instead, she gave him water and a small bag of dog food. It was so nice! And these are not the only instances where I have witnessed dogs being cared for. Everywhere I go in Santiago, I notice people exercising this love and care for the dogs despite them being strays and it makes my heart so happy.

These are just two of the reasons why I love being here thus far. I keep wondering if I am experiencing culture shock, but I’m just amazed rather than missing what I’m accustomed to, but I don’t know if culture shock works that way. Whatever it may be, I’m just enjoying it for the time being. 


Jessica Ramos