Semester in Lyon: Overcoming culture shock

Despite being in the beautiful country of France, I couldn't seem to avoid culture shock

Culture shock is like stepping in a pile of dog poop while wearing white Vans.

At least that’s how it felt for me. During my study abroad orientation for my semester-long stay in Lyon, France, we learned about the four stages of culture shock: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance.

During my honeymoon phase in France, I wanted to do everything at once. I saw Gallo-Roman ruins of an amphitheater, a beautiful cathedral that looked out over the entire city and art that dated back to Egyptian times. I ate macarons, croissants and chocolates. 

Alexa Buechler
I visited the Gallo-Roman amphitheater ruins in Vieux Lyon on Jan. 18, 2018.



But then the language barrier made me grit my teeth, and the constant cigarette smoke gave me a headache. And then even worse, I stepped in dog poop wearing my new white Vans and had to wash them off in my shower. 

The U.S. might not be the cleanest place in the world, but at least it’s frowned upon to leave dog poop in the middle of a busy sidewalk. 

Now that my shoes are washed off and for the most part undamaged, I can laugh at this. 

I can also laugh at the fact that I ordered a meal with raw meat without realizing it because I knew enough French to order the meal, but not enough to understand what she asked afterwards (which I'm assuming was something along the lines of, "Do you want raw meat?").

Alexa Buechler
I accidentally ordered the meal Tartare du Boeuf, which is raw ground beef among other spices and sauces, when I traveled to Grenoble, France on Jan. 27, 2018.



I also realized that I couldn’t be the only person in my group of Americans who was going through culture shock. But everyone experiences it in different ways.

Maddie Brennan, a sophomore studying English literature and political science at Texas A&M, has been studying French for seven years, and even she says that speaking French all of the time is exhausting. 

“I found that I didn’t want to go out because I would have to speak French,” she says.

At first, Brennan says she felt like she was missing out at first, but then she realized the people she wanted to be friends with wouldn’t stop being her friends just because she didn’t go out all the time. 

Ali Curry, a junior studying English literature at Appalachian State University, has been studying French for one year.

“I was at the store, and the guy spoke to me in French, and I didn’t understand him and that made him so mad, so he got an attitude with me and basically brushed me off,” she says. “I’m trying my best, but they don’t care.”

Curry also says she was frustrated when she chipped her molar on a fresh baguette, but now she can laugh at it. 

Despite all the frustration, I’m still fascinated by everything around me. Adjustment and acceptance will come with time, and I still have four months left in France.


Reach the blogger at anbuechl@asu.edu or follow  @alexa_buechler on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this blog are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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