Honestly, I never liked being out of my comfort zone when I was younger and I still f*cking hate it as a young adult. I’ve just learned to put a good front on when I have to.
Today I was thinking a lot about my first holiday abroad when I was 12 and why I am happy I was uncomfortable most of the time during that experience. I had never been abroad prior to that because my father believed there’s no point if I won’t value it, learn from it or even remember it and it makes total sense. Still ’til this day don’t see why some families take very young children abroad but I don’t have a child so why would I? People have their reasons.
I’m sure the majority of people are aware of what culture shock is but for those who aren’t, culture shock is the positive and/or negative influences of moving from a familiar culture to an unfamiliar culture. This also include anxieties about leaving your usual environment and the people you’re used to seeing on a regular basis.
My first holiday was in Egypt and it was a Nile cruise. I had never been abroad before so I didn’t know what to expect. I just remember feeling indifferent and thinking ‘This is a period in my life that I am not going to be in the UK and and in a warmer climate for a short while.’ I do not remember the chronological order of my Egypt tour but here are the cities we went to.
Overall it was a beautiful experience. I got to spend a week on the Nile, soak in some intense sun, see the pyramids, the Sphinx, temples and monuments that have names I cannot remember and so much more but I cannot deny that I felt like I was on edge a lot of the time.
A Developing Country
Egypt is a developing country and there is a lot of poverty. One thing my 12 year old self wasn’t expecting or didn’t consider was to be surrounded by people begging for money or trying to be sold goods I did not want.
I had always been aware that Muslim women in the UK had worn hijabs and niqabs and a lot of my classmates did too but it was interesting to be surrounded by it in an environment where it was everyday. Since I am from a rather diverse setting I was used to seeing a mixture of religious clothing habits. Its also widely known that muslim women cover themselves as part of their religion. So, not showing shoulders, the majority of the leg are etc. If I was more aware and conscious of this at the time, I would not have packed so many shorts and tank tops. Although it is not mandatory for tourists, it is nice to show you understand and respect other religions sometimes.
Luckily for me I could get all of the western food I wanted on the cruise so I didn’t have to worry my head about trying something new. From what I remember I tried something new once on an excursion and ended up just filling up on bread. I can’t say a lot about the food in Egypt because like I already said there was food catered to me on the boat. One thing I would tell my 12 year old self is not to be scared to try new food.
This was also the first time I experienced not being able to drink water straight from the tap and having to be extra cautious. It made me realise how lucky and convenient I was to be able to wake up in the morning or in the middle of night and drink straight from the tap.
There were plenty of things I was hearing, feeling and seeing for the first time. This experience way before I was deeply interested in languages and one of the things that took me the entire trip to get used to was hearing Arabic all the time. It was the idea of not understanding what people were saying and feeling rather stranded when being in an environment when my father and I were the only native English speakers.
Values and Traditions
Islam in the state religion of Egypt and I had known that before going but it isn’t something I really thought about it. I had always been aware of Islam as a religion but I learned a lot just from being there on the cruise. For example, the call for prayer 5 times a day. I remember it being so loud and rather daunting at first because I didn’t know what a call for prayer was and I had never heard anything like it. (This is what is was like >> ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bOy4pm3pgA)
Although I wasn’t 100% comfortable being there, I learned a lot about the culture, people and values. I am extremely happy this was my first holiday because I have been able to cope better in similar countries. It helped me prepare better for future trips and made me realise that no place or its people are the same. There’s always something a little different and something new to learn.