Reverse Culture Shock

Anyone who has travelled away from their homeland has probably felt the effects of culture shock – you know, the weird feeling you get when you realize that you are no longer in Kansas. This is inevitable. For an American, culture shock shows up in funny ways – like noticing that no one outside of America uses round doorknobs or the giant spoon in the silverware set is what you use for soup. Or getting used to dinner time at 10PM instead of 7 or remembering that everything closes between 2 and 5 and most everything closes on Sunday. Or having your weekend on Thursday and Friday instead of Saturday and Sunday. Or turning on the TV and noticing that not everyone has 357 channels.

China produced a great deal of culture shock, because the way of life and the way of thinking is soooo different from the West. I’ve given you examples, like the driving.

Now that I am back in the West, I am experiencing something called Reverse Culture Shock. That is the feeling you get when you return to your homeland and you are surprised by things all over again. For example, when I returned to the US after living in Costa Rica, I was astonished by all the new cars on the road and the fact that most restaurants were not open to the street (they have doors and windows).

So what am I surprised by in Spain? First, the realization that I can actually communicate with people around me. Even if my Spanish isn’t perfect, it sure beats my Mandarin! I catch myself walking around a store completely ignoring the salestaff, because I think I can’t talk to them. Then, when they ask me if I need help and I can understand, it just boggles my mind!

Another thing is the absolute absence of chopsticks. I got so used to using them, that I feel like a Neanderthal with my savage fork, spearing my food. And whenever I see a Chinese person, which to be honest is daily, since there are a lot of Chinese immigrants in Spain, I want to say Ni Hao! even if they were born in Spain and speak better spanish than I do. Speaking of shopping, it is a bit astonishing to me that I can just walk right into a clothing shop and they will have my size! And noone will giggle about it! And just where are all the bicycles??

Getting to know new cultures is one of the things that I like best about travel. Getting to know your own culture all over again is one of the interesting side effects of travel.


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