Living Alone and the Culture Shock: An Ex-ante Approach

In less than 48 hours I will leave my hometown – the city where I’ve lived ever since I was born – and move to NYC.

I’ve spent those last two days packing for the journey. This made me realise how much stuff I have. Not only clothes but also… things, gadgets, random objects accumulated over the years. And yet it was tough to decide what to leave behind. 2015-06-27 17.48.33

I’m only carrying a handful of books:

  • Poeta en Nueva York by Federico García Lorca, the set of poems the writer composed while studying at Columbia University and while traveling around the area.
  • Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, my favourite book of poems.

Also, a general guide to New York, a guide to the “literary” New York, and a couple of novels. And half a dozen of textbooks! (Unfortunately, those are expensive worldwide.)

All in all I’ve managed to fill three suitcases and probably one medium bagpack. Believe it or not sweaters take up a lot of space.

I’ll be back for Christmas so if there’s anything crucial that I’ve forgotten I only need to wait five months but it still feels different. I’m about to become an independent adult. Which is exciting but also rather frightening. It means being completely responsible for what I do, for my own well-being. It means being left out if I ever forget or lose my keys – which already happens way too often in Barcelona. It means deciding to go to the doctor if I’m not feeling well, or fixing things in the apartment.

Incidentally, I will also need to learn to live with someone else, someone I haven’t met yet, and from a different country. Hopefully, everything will go smooth.

On top of that I guess I’ll go through the so-called culture shock. I learned about it days after I was admitted at CU. Apparently every person that starts living in another country goes through four phases of adaptation to the cultural landscape:

  1. Feel completely in awe of the new place you are living in. Well, given that I’ll be living in New York, it will happen for sure. I mean, it’s pretty much the centre of the world in cultural terms, among others. For instance, one of my favourite living authors, David Mitchell, will give a lecture in Novemeber. This would be unthinkable in Barcelona.
  2. Honeymoon period ends and, together with the routine, you start realising that things are different, and this annoys you. Even in US and Spanish culture are relatively similar, I still think there’ll be some tensions. Maybe I’ll see life differently, maybe I’ll be not so respectful with personal space (we Spaniards greet each other by giving a kiss on each cheek), but there’ll be something. Also, I’m already scared about how pricey everything will be, especially food. I’m used to buy very cheap fresh vegetables and fruit… More importantly, the weather. In Barcelona we never ever go below 5ºC (41ºF), I cannot imagine how I’ll be able to cope with the cold!
  3. You eventually learn how to solve your problems and go through daily life without feeling that fried oreos are something very close to heresy. In other words, you just get used to your new life.
  4. According to Wikipedia there’s another stage, mastery, where apparently you’re in full control of the situation. Seems like step 3 to me.
Surprise, surprise: I’m a Whovian.

Well, tomorrow will be a busy day full of last-minute errands and trying to fit everything into the suitcases. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to bring my favourite mug without my father noticing it.


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