Bah humbug and God bless every one
Around this time of year, many university students will be having some reverse culture shock as they return home to family and friends for Christmas and New Year holidays. Of course, most will be glad to be "home," but you will find it different from when you were living at home before going abroad.
When you return home to your parents and siblings you may find that you have picked up a few new ways of doing things. They will notice and may even tease you! Though you have likely been feeling you have not adjusted to life abroad, you have probably adapted to your new culture more than you realize.

Life is about experiences and transition…

I would like to share an example that is close to home and close to my heart. I shared it in my piece "The art of the cross-cultural mind" (Nov. 24, 2011) where I compared lifestyle differences between North and South London and between Oklahoma and Texas. The memory that I especially want to share here goes like this:

Grandma De Lois bought airline tickets for my brother Jamie and his family to fly from Little Rock, Arkansas, to the windy city of Chicago during school break in the summer. This was their Christmas gift. It was the first time my brother Jamie took his two children, Crystal, who was 10, and Trent, who was about 8 at the time, to visit their grandmother. You can imagine the excitement! My niece and nephew had never been in a skyscraper before and found themselves sleeping in the clouds because Granny lived at the Marina Towers on the 54th floor. They'd been to baseball games at the local park nearly every weekend as long as they could remember, but never to a professional field. Grandma De Lois had a belated Christmas gift in store for them -- Trent and his dad were both over the moon with joy when they learned Granny had tickets to the Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. But though they enjoyed themselves in the big city, they did experience some culture shock. Life in a small town or a more rural setting is very different. Many expats who come to Turkey end up in İstanbul and they have never lived in such a concrete jungle before.

Christmas holidays are a time of excitement and buzz. Don't be surprised at the emotions you may experience when you go home for Christmas holidays!

For me, Christmas is about carols, stories and people. Oh! And food. There are a few traditions that are part of the annual celebration for most of us where Christmas is celebrated: Most people will be cleaning their homes, stringing them with lights, baking cookies, writing cards, buying gifts, decorating a Christmas tree, visiting Santa and, for some of us, attending special church services to remember the birth of a child known as Jesus Christ. A favorite activity for the majority of us is playing the familiar Christmas carols.

Of course, there are many stories to enjoy around this time as well. Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is a beloved classic. Dickens also wrote a number of other delightful tales associated with Yuletide, such as "The Cricket on the Heath." The stories are a delight to read with their unusual charm and the nostalgic nature of Victorian Christmases past.

A favorite of the season, as I said, is Charles Dickens… Say "Bah humbug," and immediately his character Ebenezer Scrooge springs to mind; utter the phrase "God bless us, every one!" and Tiny Tim is conjured up. And when Scrooge and Tiny Tim are remembered, then so, too, is Dickens and his story "A Christmas Carol." You must read it at least once in your life. It is a story that moves every reader.

In short, it is a tale that begins on Christmas Eve seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge's business partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge is a greedy and stingy businessman who has no place in his life for kindness, compassion, charity or benevolence. After being warned by Marley's ghost to change his ways, Scrooge is visited by three additional ghosts in the hope of achieving his transformation. Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart, and then spends the day with his nephew's family… He has become a different man overnight, gaining a reputation as a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas.

A word to all the Today's Zaman readers who celebrate this season: Try not to let the busyness of the season drive you mad, but rather take pleasure in the joyous occasion. Merry Christmas! I wish everyone safe travel!

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of "Culture Smart: Turkey" 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today's Zaman's readers. Email:

Last Modified: 2012-12-01 12:00:01
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