My Re-entry Experience AKA Reverse Culture Shock

As soon as I stepped off the plane onto American soil, I could barely contain myself. Faster than a bolt of lightening, I was already on my way to the baggage claim in JFK airport in New York, ready to show off my worn out US Passport.

By the time I reached Passport control, I proudly handed over my passport and before the tired gentleman had time to mutter one single word to me, I blurted:

"Sooo I've been out of my home country for 4 months...4 MONTHS! Can you believe it? I went to about 10 countries and now I'm back. Crazy, right?" 

His response? "Welcome back to America, Ms. Cathy" was all he said, but in the most exhausted voice I've ever heard. Well, I'm sure he has heard this before but Geez. Either way, I didn't let that get me down and was ready to get back into the game in the U.S. of A. But...

Before we move onto what happened next, have you ever heard of "Reverse Culture Shock"? It's like Culture Shock - - but backwards. More specifically, it is when people leave his or her home country for a certain amount of time and upon their return, there is a transition period that occurs...Getting re-acquainted with what was once their home. Other travelers have warned me about this but I didn't think too much about it until...

 I started to see how Fast this country was going. For instance, I was in Portland, Maine - - ordered myself some New England Clam Chowder at a nearby restaurant, and just like that - - it was wrapped up in a neat paper bag and ready for me to rush off. I forget that the default was 'to go' - - remember those Go-gurts? If you've ever seen those stand-ups by Ellen DeGeneres, you'll know what I'm talking about...

I mean, come on, how time-consuming is a regular cup of yogurt?
Another difference that I have been finding myself adjusting to is how I can READ everything!! Every single thing on the dinner menu, all of the sale items, the specific ingredients that go in facial cream..toothpaste...anything and everything. The fact that I didn't have to strain my eyes for a minimum of 2 minutes for each product-- just to understand what I was about to purchase was a bit overwhelming for me.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It's a great thing - - however, I'm still adjusting. In addition, I recall being in Vietnam and mainly looking at numbers or prices to determine what I was going to eat - - rather than what it actually was (due to my very strict travel budget). Plus, the banana guy in Saigon was pretty straightforward. He sold bananas. And lots of them.
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One time, in France, I remember being fine with absolutely ANY lotion - - just as long as it was lotion because, quite frankly, I couldn't read more than half of the ingredients that went in there. I recently went into a supermarket and as I slowly wandered by the facial lotions area - - it was like a madhouse. Anti-wrinkle this, Detox that, Shrink those, Buy that, No this - - it's on sale. Whoa - - slow down, man. I just want lotion...for my face. Can't I just get that without all of that fancy stuff??

Signs. Street signs. Billboards. Commercials. Advertisements. Everywhere. Sure - - there were plenty of them abroad, in every single country. But, it's different when you don't comprehend anything of that. It was almost as if I was in my own little world - - never hassled or pushed to buy anything from marketing schemes.

Now that I can read everything - - it's almost as if I'm being told what to do - - 24/7. Don't do this, don't do that, it's illegal if you trespass here after this time, only buy this - - buy that.
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See the photo above? Most of the countries that I have visited specialized in one area. If I needed to wash my clothes, I had to go to the laundromat (if I felt like spoiling myself and taking a nice break from the sink). If I had to print some bus tickets-- I had to find a print shop. Very rarely did I ever find a place to dry clean, tan, wash & dry. Well, that's just as convenient as can be, huh? Lookin' good too - - why the heck not??

I'm here now, in Rhode Island, United States of America - - still adjusting to the fact that I can now be in the middle of a crowd - and hear snippets of conversation all around me. If someone was talking about me here, I'd know. As a traveler, you almost get used to having that label act as a security net - - to sometimes excuse your overly social behaviors and give you mad courage to make friends instantly. What's great is that I can remember my traveling experiences to continue giving me that courage, that strength and adaptability to do start new in my home country - - and passionately write the next chapter in my life. 


14 comments:

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  2. I get panicky whenever I go back home. The reverse-culture shock stinks. I'm going there in a few months and I can already feel the anxiety. I adore this post, Cathy!

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    1. Hey Ana, I did start to feel a little anxious when the time got close but I think it was also excitement! I think it depends on how we choose to perceive the process because I am getting a huge kick out of easily making friends in my native tongue left and right ;) I know I can travel my whole life and this reverse culture shock is only temporary - that thought process helps! Thanks for reading! :)

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  3. Replies
    1. Almost home! I'm doing a mini-trip in the East Coast before going back to Arizona - - my real home. Thank you!!

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  4. Like the new site design! I didn't know you were actually from Rhode Island.

    REverse Culture Shock is true... to the point it's culture shock again. I so agree w/ you on the reading part. When I was living in Korea I couldn't tell what some products were and it's all trial and error. I used conditioner for a week thinking it was shampoo! Ironically, when I got back I didn't really notice the fact I could read words.. I kinda miss not being able to read things.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you dig the new design! I'm actually from California but moving back to Arizona :) Currently in Rhode Island to spend some time with friends and then making my way back home in 1 day.

      That's a hilarious story - - I actually did something very similar in France. I was looking for lotion and accidentally poured body wash on my hands; it stuck everywhere :/ When you can't read the words - - it's almost a fun little challenge, huh? Now I almost feel like everything is tooo easy hah!

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  5. Woah. Must be nice not having someone to constantly remind you of "whats hot and whats not"

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  6. the experiences from your trip and the inbuilt knowledge of ur home place, both will amalgamate, to give your life a new perspective. And am sure you're enjoying it all :)

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    1. Hey Savvy, you couldn't have described how I have and am feeling. I feel like I will have new eyes when I come back home :)

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    2. thats just great!!! new eyes, new visions!!!

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  7. When I read this combination of words and pictures "Reverse Culture shock", "Grab n Go" and "Adjusting how I read everything" my mind took me to a different direction. Guess its a reflection of my prism right now.

    After my return everything started to read differently. Art started to resonate more. I guess its not unlike after a breakup, everything reminds you of the relationship etc... How I dealt with 'Reverse Culture shock' was to look outside myself. Imagine what its like for people returning to working their day jobs after representing their Country in the Olympics, or what Soldiers go through upon returning home. A jaunt around the world feels like childsplay after that.
    http://lozintranslation.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/coming-home-from-year-abroad-beating.html

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    1. Yes! It really does feel a bit like child's play. Going to the grocery store in my home country had never been so much fun and amusing, to realize how many choices I had in each aisle! That's a great way of providing a different perspective when discussing the people who return home from war or Olympics. It changes the way you see everything in your home country..

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