Culture Shock

If you’ve grown up and lived in one place, I envy you. On the other hand, I also feel sorry for you. One of the things I’ve learned though, is that culture shock can still happen even if you never leave the country.

In the sixth grade, I moved from central Texas (Hill Country) to northern California. It’s a horrible time in a kid’s life to move. Kids that age are vicious. Anyway, I went from a junior high that I really liked to a crappy K-8 school in NorCal. My school in Texas had been a proper junior high with lockers and rotating schedules. I’d loved the independence of memorizing my schedule, going to classes, and picking electives. The school in California was really just a one room school house with a bunch of portables around it. Oh! And an addition for the library. No cafeteria, no gym, it was just pavement and portables. You could hear the wind whistle through the roofs of the portables. Some days I half expected the roof to go flying off.

I still remember the first day. My folks took me into the office and got me registered or whatever. I was wearing a blue winter coat that was my brother’s hand-me-down. The people in the office just handed me a school map, put an X on the correct classroom, and said “go there”. I was a little stunned by that. Every other new student I’d ever seen at school was taken to their new class by an administrator. They were introduced to the class or, at the very least, the teacher. I thought to myself, “But this is middle school and I can follow a map easily enough.” Plucking up my courage, I headed out into the wind and rain.

The classroom was on the end of a row. I struggled against the wind to open the door and had it slam behind me. I looked up and dozens of eyes stared at me. The teacher looked up and said, “Can I help you?” I introduced myself and added that I was her new student.


Yeah, she said that. The office hadn’t even bothered to phone the teacher to let her know I was coming. That basically set the tone for the rest of that school year. And the older I get, the madder I get at that teacher. Like it’s not hard enough moving and starting a new school in the middle of the year. It was a rapidly growing school district and they were having a hard time making room for all the kids. I can see that. But still. And the people in the office didn’t even think of giving her a ‘head’s up’. That’s not cool, either. If they’d done that, the teacher would have had a moment to compose herself, perhaps.

So, that was my first moment of culture shock. How about you?

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