Nothing can really prepare you for culture shock, unless of course, you have experienced it before.
Coming from, what is considered to be, one of the most liveable cities in the world is making this the contrasts even more vivid.
In Vancouver many people, whether they know it or now, lead a privileged existence. Everything works on command, every commodity and convenience is always available and it is all with a beautiful backdrop of ocean and mountains. You know where to get everything and often the “experience” is as interesting as the commodity (think Whole Foods).
Here too you have a stunning backdrop of ocean and mountains. Centuries of history add even more gorgeous ingredients to the mix.
Bay of Kotor
However, here so much of what I had taken for granted is not available yet. There are no delicatessens and organic food stores (you go the the Saturday fresh market for that). Brunch places do not exist and cuisine is almost entirely local in nature; fresh fish or warm stews are the fare here. There are no fitness clubs, movie theatres with popcorn or the variety in retail we know. With a few bright exceptions like the new Aman Resort, the hospitality industry is behind the standards we know. Little Britain’s “computer says no” skit comes to mind sometimes.
Everywhere you turn, there is an entrepreneur’s dream waiting to be realized.
The culture shock creeps up on you slowly. At first, all the differences don’t bother you. You don’t even notice them because you are in awe of the beauty of this region. The novelty of everything numbs you to how different things really are and how all your familiar reference points are no longer there. Then sometimes you start to lose patience and little things start to get to you. Pings of homesickness rise from your gut when all you really want for dinner is some sushi or Chinese food, or just something as simple as home delivery.
As our furniture and personal items are about to arrive momentarily, it feels good to know that I will once again be surrounded by familiar things … at least at home. That will make a big difference with everything else that is so new. Now I know that living in an “emerging market” and feeling the culture shock just mean I have to remind myself more often to relax, observe, not judge and not have Vancouver as my reference point for my expectations. As I said before, change is coming at you here! It is going to be fascinating to observe.
There is much to discover in this ancient storied land, so back to cherishing the differences and exploring!
Our furniture, art, electronics and other random personal belongings that make up your life, arrived on a crisp Tuesday evening after sitting in the local customs house for almost a week. The experience of finally getting everything from the customs depot into the house was quite traumatic (the 20 foot container arrived, but the forwarding agent forgot to send anyone to unload it).
By now, I guess I should have anticipated the experience to be more complicated than I would have expected it to have been. Remember, this is the same place where I recently saw carbon copy paper being used for the first time in 25 years; rubber stamps are not just a metaphor and it takes 3 weeks to get an internet connection (and only after you fight for it). It makes that 15 minutes of being on hold with Telus seem like a dream.
In the end, Pieter recruited 3 local guys who were watching our adventure unfold in this small quiet fisherman’s village; the guys helped re-arrange parked cars and trucks so the driver could turn his trailer around and park in front of the house. In the end, 6 strong locals helped us unload everything into the 4 floors of our new waterfront home.
The lesson: simple and convenient are not part of the social fabric yet. You always have to remember that this country is just a 3 year old and it’s mother was a staunch Communist. It’s father? Well, after being occupied by everyone from the Turkish to the Italians… who knows who dad is?
Changes are making this young country grow up quickly. Today was historic as the travel restrictions that have been imposed on Serbs, Macedonians and Montenegrins for the past 17 years were lifted. Finally they can enjoy free movement throughout Europe without having to apply for a visa. Something makes me think that this will be an enlightening time for the people of this newly independent land.
After the difficult move in, life is closer to normal again. Now it is time to take a few days off of work, rest my mind, and continue exploring the region.
Yesterday was a bright sunny crisp winter day. The dark mountains that surround the Bay of Kotor were powdered with white snow. Yet, it was mild enough at sea level that you could sit outside for coffee or lunch. Today the Southern winds are back again and what feels like gale force winds are battering the stone walls of the house. All the shutters are closed so they don’t batter around, and it feels like the middle of the night even though it is only the middle of the afternoon. I am just waiting for the power to go out as it so often does when there is a storm.
On days like this it feels like we moved to Alaska and not the middle of the Mediterranean. It it hard to believe that, in just a few months, the temperature will be back in the high 20s and low 30s (80s and 90s Fahrenheit).
But then again, as I have said before, this is an experience of extremes and contrast.