Mount Ararat as seen from Armenia / Photo: Arty Om
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Traveling is God’s gift to humanity. When you travel, the enticement of the whirlwind of new experiences – whether that be local delicacies, nature, language, and/or people - is absolutely amazing. When you are fortunate enough to engage with locals, you gain the invaluable experience of sharing ideas, recipes, and different cultures. But, along with that comes the culture shock. And oh my, is it real. But it is a grand time and is good for your personal growth.
Honest Armenians are Everywhere!
As an Armenian-American born and raised in the States, I was used to diversity. I attended Michigan State University, which focused upon diversity, inclusion, and political correctness. In Armenia, not including the tourists, everybody is Armenian. While there are a mix of Diasporans and locals, we are all still Armenian. Due to such a diverse nation-state, Americans tend to be politically correct and beat around the bush when it comes to their political or religious views, or their perspective on geopolitical situations. Incredibly refreshing and surprising is the bluntness of Armenians.
Surb Astvatsatsin Church of Areni (1321 AD), Armenia / Photo: Arty Om
Although shocking at times, you can always count on an Armenian to tell you what they really think about other countries, cultures, and ways of life. Coming from a politically correct obsessed society, the honesty of the Armenian mentality and perspective of the international political situation is refreshing, even if it will make your jaw drop! And honestly, living amongst Armenians and listening to their unfiltered opinions is incredibly refreshing – it really is freedom of speech.
Shall We Find You a Husband?
Upon the second day of arrival to Armenia, being whisked off to the small city of Vanadzor certainly created the opportunity for much cultural shock, as I was living amongst a very conservative crowd. I lived with a local family with a host mom who cooked amazing food, especially when it came to dolma. But, with the dinners came the questions that many locals ask foreigners. Why did you leave America to live in Armenia? Is America or Armenia a better country? Are you married? Do you want us to find you a husband? When do you want to get married?
I said it’s difficult to compare. And of course, I politely declined their very nice offer. During my stay in Vanadzor, I was in a long-distance relationship with somebody from the States, and when that came crashing down, my host-sister made me endless smoothies and played with my hair while I cried. Armenians are incredibly interested in your background and want to know your entire life story within the first minutes of meeting you. The notion of privacy and personal space does not exist in Armenia and thus you may feel slightly suffocated; but, their hospitality, genuine care, sincere smiles, and love for you as a human being is far greater than anything I have experienced in the States.
Armenians are hospitable, caring, and love you as a human being / Photo: Arty Om
Staring Contests: Armenian Style
Along the lines of the bazillion questions asked by locals and phrased in various ways, is the staring that is involved in almost every interaction. In the States, you do everything but stare at people. In Armenia, when you walk down the street, you feel as though it literally becomes a staring contest. Especially as a young woman, regardless of how you are dressed, you will feel the eyes of men following you for half a block. But do not worry; you are not the only one being stared at. Stay calm and stare back!
Is Running Late Running on Time?
Armenians have a unique concept of time. In the States, putting aside personal lifestyles, everything and everyone runs on time. In Armenia, it is normal to wait half an hour or more until the marshrutkas (a form of public transportation) that travel between cities, leave for their destination. If all of the seats are not yet reserved, then you will wait until the last seat is taken. It not only is very economically savvy, but also environmentally friendly. As life runs at a slower pace than in the States, and definitely not everything runs according to plan, you gain the highly valued trait of patience. Vochinch (it’s nothing) if you’re a little late because everybody is a little late. Hell, sometimes when I try my absolute best to meet my friends at the restaurant on time, I still somehow end up being 45 minutes late.
Republic Square, Yerevan / Photo: Arty Om
Traveling to Armenia is definitely one of the best decisions you can make, and thank you to culture shock, you will become a stronger person. You will definitely experience running late, discussing politics without the rose-tinted glasses of political correctness, and meeting locals who want to find you a husband or ask you intimate details about your life story. The culture shock might momentarily turn your world upside down, but never fear because those moments not only will give you a deeper understanding of Armenian culture, but will also forever change your perspective of yourself, your home country, and your vision of the world.