“Culture shock refers to the anxiety and feelings of surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion, etc. felt when people have to operate within a different and unknown culture or social environment, such as a foreign country. It grows out of the difficulties in assimilating the new culture, causing difficulty in knowing what is appropriate and what is not. This is often coupled with a dislike for or even disgust with certain aspects of the new or different culture.”
Last week I believe I experienced my first bout of culture shock since coming back to Mozambique this summer. Coming to Dondo has been a bit of shock in itself. Compared to Pemba, it is quite rural. At least Pemba had two grocery stores and a few restaurants. Dondo has several shops near the market, but they basically all sell the same thing, which is usually not what you’re shopping for if you’re me.
Base food here is the same thing for lunch and dinner, so if you’re not a big cabbage or fish fan, you’re looking for something else to eat at least 6 meals a week. For anything filling, nutritious, and/or tasty, of course, this leads to one destination: the Shop Rite grocery store in Beira, which is a 45 minute drive away. Assuming there is a vehicle available. Assuming it will start. Which is highly questionable at Iris Dondo!
All this makes for a once weekly shopping trip to Beira, unless you have a death wish. (More on that later!) So off we went. I had already bought a few things on Tuesday when we flew in, but since this was the once-weekly trip, I knew I needed to stock up on some things I was already running out of. Namely drinking water.
I have already been dealing with frustration in Mozambique over using my debit card at the ATM. Last year, it worked. This year, it doesn’t. Not such a problem when you have U.S. dollars to exchange for local currency. Begins to become a problem when you’ve been in Mozambique for a month and you’re down to your last $20. I was already concerned about cash because it is possible to get some things in the market at Dondo, which would get me through the week if I had cash. Unfortunately I only had about $10 worth. And I was not looking forward to making it stretch over 2 weeks. So here I am at Shop Rite, trying my debit card at both bank’s ATM machines yet again. No go. You’d think if you can match up all the logos on the front and back of your card to the logos on the machine, you could get cash. Not so in Mozambique.
Nevertheless, I knew I could still get groceries because I could just pay at the store with my debit card. So I got all the groceries I wanted for the next week and went to check out. Jeff and Janet, the couple we came with, were in the line next to me and their card wasn’t going through. Neither did mine.
I want to pause and say that being a tech minded person and also previously running a business and owning a credit card machine is not always the best combination when it comes to problems in the supermarket. The lady tried two different credit card machines and brought the receipts back and gave them to me showing me that my card wouldn’t go through. We went to see the manager and he told us we needed to call our banks. I showed him the receipts that said “transaction cancelled,” “cannot connect” and “no line available” in Portuguese. I asked him if instead of it being all four of our banks in four parts of the United States that mysteriously all decided to decline our cards for no reason, if perhaps it was his equipment or bank that was malfunctioning and maybe he should call someone instead. He agreed, but this is Africa. I am hoping by the next time we go to Shop Rite they will have it fixed.
So that meant I walked away with basically a gallon of drinking water and a bottle of garlic piri piri sauce (the cheapest two things I could get). I also decided to go next door to the Pep store and buy a pair of jeans because the weather is considerably cooler here. Unfortunately, their magnetic card reader was broken on their credit card machine and because it’s Africa, they were not concerned with manually punching card numbers so people could purchase something. We were told to go to the ATM for cash. Ha.
I went to the bank in Dondo when we got back, and unfortunately my card wouldn’t work there either. I went in and managed to have a conversation with the lady in Portuguese about how my ATM card wasn’t working in Mozambique and I needed information on how to wire transfer money from a bank in America. She started talking passports and residence permits and big words I couldn’t understand, and I was so frustrated by this point that she was speaking in words I knew and it was like the battery ran out on my internal Portuguese translator. My brain just shut down. It was all I could do to ask her if anyone there spoke English. I finally got to someone who could, and he told me my best bet was the Western Union in Beira.
Needless to say I was in shock about the whole ordeal. Africa is halfway across the world – physically, mentally, culturally. First off, I have never attempted to buy something I needed like food and not walked away with it. I’ve never lived 45 minutes away from *the* grocery store. I’ve never had money in the bank and been unable to access it some way or another. I’ve never dealt with people who don’t care that you’ve driven 45 minutes to buy groceries for the week and are about to walk out of the store without them. For that matter, neither my bank nor the other banks know why my card isn’t working at the ATM, and neither are going to do anything about it. Both banks say everything is right on their end, end of story.
So all of this left me extremely “shocked.” I experienced the whole range of emotions – surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, and confusion, coupled with extreme dislike and disgust! Score 1 for Wikipedia. :-) It certainly took everything out of me. I went to bed at 8:00 that night because I was so mentally and physically exhausted!
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34. :-).