Archive for July, 2008

Reverse culture shock

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Even if you’ve never experienced it, culture shock seems quite natural and not very surprising. Culture shock is basically the feeling you get when you live with people from another culture. They think differently and act differently than you are used to, and it feels a little strange at first. You need some time to adjust. You expect to experience culture shock when you go live in another country where they speak a different language and have a totally different culture than what you are used to.

Reverse culture shock is more unusual. Reverse culture shock is the uneasy feeling you have when you return to your own culture after having lived away from it for a while. Obviously, the longer you’ve lived away, the stronger reverse culture shock is. When I first learned about reverse culture shock I didn’t give it much thought at all. I couldn’t even imagine that I’d ever have these feelings. I’ve since learned that reverse culture shock is much stronger and more unusual than I’d ever imagined.

Imagine coming back to your own country after living somewhere else for several years. You see your old friends and family and try to catch up (catching up means to talk to someone you haven’t seen in a long time. You need to make up for lost time and share all the stories that have happened since you last spoke). Things change slowly so you don’t really notice how you’ve changed over the years. After talking with your friends and family, you realize that things aren’t quite the same as you remembered. They seem to think differently than you do now. They talk about different topics than you do. They have a different understanding of the world than you do. It can be quite difficult to fit in with your old culture. I find that it’s a very weird feeling, especially since I never really believed it could happen to me.

Add and I are back in Canada for the summer. We’ve already been here for over a month. I’m starting to get used to life here again, but it was really hard at first. In some ways, I forgot what Canadians are like.

One of the biggest things that surprised me was how much people here talk about houses.  A lot of people are always commenting on how someone else’s house is really “sweet” (sweet is slang for amazing), and what they plan to do to make their own house even sweeter.  They love to make their house and yard look really nice.  I’m not saying it is a bad thing, but it’s something I’d never really noticed before.  When people start talking about this, I find that I’m quiet because I have nothing really to say about it.

Please share any of your own culture shock or reverse culture shock experiences.