Jun 6, 2014

Reverse Culture Shock

In a week I traveled to three countries: Japan, the US, and Canada. For many of the people I met along the way, that's more countries than they'll visit in their lifetime. Reverse culture shock - the feeling of not fitting into your "home" culture anymore - began to persistently nudge me.

Glen Falls in Williamsville, New York

I drove across Canada to visit family in New York. We played football while running barefoot on the lawn, and ate locally made ice cream at a park. At the same time I was doing these very American activities, Nanao felt just down the street. I couldn't grasp the distance between me and the life I'd built over the past year.

Reverse culture shock wasn't one overwhelming revelation to me, but a series of many little shocks: I could understand overheard conversations; the roads had pot holes; customer service workers did not look forward to serving people; I had to leave tips; processed food is so obviously poisoning everyone.

Sometimes I felt like I'd landed back in Kansas after a long time in Oz. I wanted things to feel "normal" (i.e., Japanese) again. It seems, as a traveler, you can't be in one place without missing another - and I feel so lucky for it!

Every new place challenges your assumptions, broadens your perspective, and evokes changes in your behavior. You become a messy, wonderful mix of the different cultures you've experienced. If reverse culture shock is an indication that you've changed inside, then I must be going in the right direction.


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