While Rachel and I were in language school in preparation for our move to Mozambique, one of my favorite ways to increase vocabulary was by reading. The Harry Potter series in Portuguese was an especially fun way to practice because the story kept my attention. (Also I didn't expect it, but all that sorcery vocabulary has actually come in handy here!). So, in our first few years away from the USA, I would keep plugging away, slowly working my way through J.K. Rowling's bestselling series in that language.
Since I was reading those books early in my time overseas, I have tended to associate them with culture shock. Missionaries and expats talk a lot about this topic. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, culture shock has to do with the disorientation experienced when living in a new and radically different environment. You feel tired all the time and the press of a new language and culture leaves you feeling drained of anything good and life giving.
So, the best description of culture shock that I can give you is this: culture shock is similar to the Dementors from the Harry Potter series. The Dementors are these single-minded wraiths who chase after their prey with the goal of sucking out one's soul. Both culture shock and the Dementors are destructive forces that when left untended can render the person helpless.
In the series, after encounters with the Dementors, Harry and his friends are always given chocolate to help recover their strength. So again, we have another similarity between culture shock and the Dementors. While there is no complete cure (no method to drive them away forever), the closest thing that comes to an antidote for the symptoms of either of them is of course... chocolate!
So, my advice for new missionaries experiencing culture shock: If at all possible, keep your pantry well stocked with chocolate.
And if your church is supporting a new (or even a not-so-new) missionary - now you know what to put in their care package :) .
Grace and Peace,