Culture shock is determined by the level to which one has become habituated to a specific culture, and stepping outside of this comfort creates a disturbance. Living in Madrid, I was enrolled in business classes taught in English with international students and I did not live in a homestay, but in an apartment with friends from Tulane. While it was enjoyable, I felt a very minimal immersion in the culture, and therefore learned very little about the culture of the madrileño. In Argentina, however, I am having a much more authentic and enriching experience, and have been forced to make a greater effort to immerse and adapt to the culture, rather than hide or avoid it.
I believe that the best way to prepare for culture shock is by undergoing this “shock” as frequently as possible. As I have traveled and experienced more cultures throughout my life, I have subconsciously prepared for culture shock by having zero expectations that the culture, pace, mannerisms, or attitude of one place should resemble anything that I have become accustomed to or that I relate to. By lowering these expectations, I feel that I can take account of said cultural differences without the “shock”.
I do, however, believe that the best way to prepare for culture shock is to understand the history of the country before encountering it, as to better understand the identity and culture that this history has sculpted. I wish that I had made a greater effort to understand the history of Argentina and the identity of the porteño before my arrival here, but I have come to realize that it is nearly impossible to learn an unbiased history of the country or an accurate description of its people from any American, English-written source. The cultural mix of the population, from mostly European descent, accounts for much of the unique social characteristics of the argentines. The history of government instability accounts for much of the political characteristics of the present day porteño as well.
In conclusion, I believe that I am becoming more observant of culture over time and by ignoring my expectations, always refraining from holding anyone to the standards that I have been raised by. In the future, I plan to research more about the history of a country before I travel, as to anticipate any social or political oddities, and to be more observant of the identity of its people.