“Reverse culture shock is experienced when returning to a place that one expects to be home but actually is no longer. It is far more subtle, and therefore, more difficult to manage than outbound shock precisely because it is unexpected and unanticipated.” Dean Foster, founder and president of Intercultural Global Solutions, a firm that provides intercultural training and coaching worldwide.
Well, we were anticipating some level of shock on returning to a minority world context (the UK), and since we've only been back a week or two, we have by no means navigated through this transiiton yet. However, we thought we'd share with you some of the things that have leapt out at us as being 'shocking' in one way or another. These aren't meant to be judgements, but just reflect the gulf of where we have been living compared to where we will be living (at least in the immediate future).
|"You're doing great; only 80ft to go", "I'm six months pregnant; is this the only way, Luke?"|
- Trying to remember that nobody understands Tok Pisin here (and suddenly feeling your vocabulary is restricted because of that!)
- Wearing jeans feels AMAZING and at the same time, seeing so many thighs (even if it is only their outline) is a little weird!
- Being really really cold.
- Remembering it's acceptable to sit close to one another and even to show affection.
- Struggling (our lips) with the lack of humidity.
- Finding grammatical mistakes hilarious (e.g. the man stood next to a car with a sign reading "pancake's").
- Being overwhelmed at the expansive of range of fruit and vegetables from all over the world (some of which we had never seen before) in the supermarket (some of which we're being kept cool by refrigerated air streaming out of metal pipes).
- Feeling unable to keep up with a different pace of life.
- Being disappointed to discover that being friendly and speaking the language (English) doesn't get you very far in terms of customer service (not even an apology after our flight was delayed overnight!).
- Having clean feet (even before a shower!).
- Feeling out of touch by new technology, e.g. "Cool watch",
"Oh, it's just an iPod."
- Being stunned at the smooth, smooth (and clean) roads.
- Being stunned at the sheer volume of cars that fill up those roads.
- Staggering at the availability and convenience of (real) toilets and rubbish bins.
- Being bowled over by the abundance of sanitised, fully-prepared and very appetising food and drink.
- Remaining peaceful and relaxed after Luke leaving me in a public place for 15 minutes.
- Wondering no more when/ where the next opportunity to charge my mobile phone/ Kindle will be!
- Finding perfect strangers being pleased for me about the pregnancy.
- Finding perfect strangers not as willing to engage in conversation with me.
- Observing that people walk a lot faster.
- Feeling pretty scruffy, rather than the best-dressed.
- Feeling under pressure with conversations that tend to focus on the future instead of the present.
- Missing the random calls to our mobiles from people just ringing to see if we'll answer and want to make a new friend!
- Smelling the cleaning products used regularly in public places.
- Discovering the phenomenon of bio-security risks: We've seen giant yams make it through with 'security checked' luminous stickers in Papua New Guinea, but Australia and New Zealand don't even like you having soil on your walking boots!
- Seeing the beautiful orange, yellow, red and brown trees (we thankfully made it home to catch the tail-end of Autumn).
- Unpacking our suitcases and putting
them away with the understanding that they will stay away for at least
the next six months (on average, we haven't stayed in one place for
longer than 8 weeks over the last two years).
So, if we seem a little bewildered, confused, incoherent, emotional, stressed, you might have an idea of why, even if you can't exactly relate!