Reverse Culture Shock

Transitioning from a foreign country back to your home country has its pros and cons... At any given moment, you might realize you are experiencing one of the pros (usually accompanied by an emotional high) or one of the cons (accompanied by an emotional low).

I had experienced this reverse culture shock every time I had come home during Christmas and summer vacation, but this time, it has set in more deeply. Why? Well... because I'm not going back to CR at the end of the month. I read several online articles before returning to the U.S. this time, just to get an idea of what I was going to experience. The pros/highs of the articles listed such things as your mom's cooking, re-connecting with family and friends, using the dryer for your jeans, convenience of shopping at WalMarts, and going back to ''normal'' life. The cons/lows listed were (discouragingly) similar: missing foreign foods, re-connecting with family and friends, missing the crisp feeling of your air-dried jeans, missing the convenience of the neighborhood grocery stores, and missing the ''not-normal'' life.

In other words, the pros and cons are just different aspects of the exact same normal life experiences.

The pros have been great: all the hellos to family and friends, buying a car (and feeling like I just bought my independence back!), eating lots of cheese and strawberries :), travelling to several states to spend time with family and friends (Minnesota, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio), and going to WalMart to buy new makeup!
While riding this rollercoaster, I have found that there are several triggers that bring the lows. Various triggers for these high and lows include:

...receiving advertisement e-mails from target.com, youswoop.com, etc., and realizing that I can actually have purchased items shipped to my doorstep. On one hand, I love the convenience, and on the other hand, I realize I can't let the convenience trick me in to buying my every whim.

...noticing that not everyone wants the in-depth version of my last three years. Most just want a 5 second version, and all I can say in 5 seconds is, ''It was exciting and challenging. I learned a lot.'' I have been very encouraged by those who have asked for more details :). Thanks for asking!

...eating too much gourmet cheese one afternoon and thinking I was going to literally die that night as I waited through the stomach pains... ouch. We´ll call this the physical reverse culture shock :).

...eavesdropping on Spanish conversations and praying about how I can continue learning culture and language while being surrounded by English.

...realizing that life has gone on here without me. Not that change isn't good, it just reminds me that life doesn't revolve around me (a good lesson when I think about it).

...While standing in the cheese aisle at WalMart, I am overwhelmed by how many options there are. Or at an international foods store in downtown Detroit, I was overwhelmed by all the available juices. Or at the music festival in Minnesota, I was overwhelmed by the number of concerts I could choose from. Trigger: TOO MANY OPTIONS.

From what I've read and heard, reverse culture shock takes a while to go through. So far, I'm four weeks into the process, and it could be a while until I'm not so overwhelmed at WalMart :).


Soulspeak said...

Hey girl <3 love what and how you write always.
i have the tiniest snippet of understanding on the reverse culture shock. i remember coming back from the D.R. and seeing more food than we had there on our counter and i was a little overwhelmed! im excited to hear more details and thinkin of ya, will be prayin 2 ! <3

Peggy McGhehey said...

Hi Kate,
It is a tough transistion. My heart goes out to you. I am excited for you and your future! New job, new car and a new home! Wow and all in one day! :)

I miss all of you -- wonder if we will ever be able to have some sort of a reunion down the road!
love you!
Peggy Bedortha-McGhehey