The land of exuberance

The Luxury of Culture Shock Felt by a Western Traveller

As a child traveling safely with my parents culture shock was induced by new fragrancies, strange vegetation and unaccustomed climate. And people who looked different from my sheltered everyday experience. I wasn't a child anymore when I travelled to India, I was a young student with two student friends accompanying me, but the culture shock I experienced when landing in Calcutta in 1984 (these days called Kolkata), just before monsoon was hitting the city in mid May, was strongest ever. I felt I was in mortal danger. The onslaught by countless riksawallahs, beggars, hustlers and the acrid smell of smoke and rotten fruits was overpowering. The city we travelled through in a depleted car wreck of a taxi looked like a never ending slum. The main ingredient of my culture shock though was my ignorance. I would be cured in a few days - all it took was to look in the eyes of people, to understand that I was the stranger, though a welcome stranger, in an ancient web of civility and understanding. It was not love on first sight but on second and third.

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