One minute I was fine and suddenly...
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
I've lost count of the number of times a fellow ex-pat has told me about a day in which one minute they we totally fine before a seemingly trivial incident reduced them to a sobbing mess. One person told me about a time when a security guard had reprimanded her for using her mobile phone in a bank. She couldn't understand why something that after the fact seemed a bit weird and mildly irritating had sent her completely over the edge.
So what's going on? As children we build up information about how the world works. That's why children touch everything, take things apart, constantly ask why things are the way they are. What they're doing is creating a database which later in life helps us predict what will happen in different situations and allows us to cope with them better.
For those of us who grew up in one culture and then move to another the information we have built up mostly works and usually everything is fine. But there are also moments when the way we think the world should be enters into conflict with an aspect of the new culture and these moments can be anything from hilarious to terrifying.
Just think, the last time you didn't understand how the world worked you were probably a child and for this reason these experiences can make you feel extremely vulnerable. These moments are when we ex-pats need each other most. Sharing those weird terrifying moments with someone brings you back to adulthood and makes you feel that you're not alone. Remember, every one of these experiences adds to the database so that little by little you learn to cope with the new culture better. Finally, if anyone knows why you can't use a mobile phone in the bank in Argentina please let me know!