After being back home for almost one week, I have realized that the so called “culture shock” got me just now and not the moment I stepped on Saudi ground back in September of this year.
Maybe it is not a culture SHOCK really but just the definite realization that I am living in an entirely different culture now, or just different world.
First of all, here in Germany I am obviously all on my own. I can get from A to B using public transportation and wear whatever I want on the street, nobody and I mean NOBODY cares. I wouldn’t say that I missed this kind of freedom very much but it just has become more and more obvious to me over the last couple of days.
I feel like the basic difference that I notice here is the freedom people have. There are gluehwein stands all over town for those who enjoy that drink, people walk around in all sorts of dresses and hair colors and boyfriends take out their girlfriends for dinner in public even before they get married. However, that sometimes becomes an extremely annoying thing as well.
Just yesterday have I noticed how beneficial gender segregation, as there is in Saudi, can be. In Saudi Arabia, there is no social interaction between people who are not related, while in Germany wait for it…you are free to do what you want!!!
I was just sitting on the train on my way home, when a young couple occupied the two seats in front of me. Well, despite the fact that the two were in a public place, surrounded by various strangers, they started to show off how much they liked each other. I won’t get into detail on this but just say that they were VERY enthusiastic about it.
In Saudi Arabia I definitely wouldn’t have to suffer from such a sight and that is pretty much all I could think of until I finally got off the train some stations later.
Then came the christmas shopping. For some reason every single Berliner, including me, decided to buy all the gifts two days before D-Day.
I was just getting something for somebody in a bookstore, as I was flooded by a crowd of shoppers. Honestly, I felt nearly claustrophobic after five minutes.
In Riyadh, there is always a certain distance between the people in the shopping mall or anywhere else in public (unless somebody wants the tiny spot in front of you in a waiting line). Yesterday in the German shop, someone literally grabbed me by my shoulders and moved me to the side. I assume that the one or the other Muslim reader of this will shake his or her head in disbelief now.
So yes, there certainly is a difference between the cultures. It is open to debate whether one is better than the other. One is very…”disciplined” and strict while the other one is more of a laissez-faire society. But all in all I feel like such cultural exchanges are a good thing after all. Maybe I will learn to appreciate my “Western freedom” some more after my stay in the Middle East is over.