Reverse culture shock
When you move abroad, everybody tells you about culture shock. It takes a hot second to grow accustomed to a new language, new business hours, new people, etc. What they don’t warn you about, though, is reverse culture shock. What happens when you return home. It’s not something you’d think about – why would you have to get used to something you’ve known all your life? Well, you’d be surprised! For example…
Options! Variety! Stress!
When I lived in Spain, I would walk 3 minutes to the Mercadona, pay about 15 euros for a week’s worth of groceries, and be done. Then, when I moved back to the States, I drove ten minutes to Publix, walked in, and was baffled with reverse culture shock. When I went to the bread section, I was stuck deciding between a dozen different brands of wheat bread! Why do we need that many options? I got so stressed trying to think, I found the cheapest brand and looked away! This reverse culture shock was much more stressful than my initial culture shock abroad!
Piggybacking off that last example, I was amazed at the sheer size of American stores. The Mercadona in Spain had about 4 aisles; in America, 4 aisles is just the toiletry section! To a degree, the hugeness of everything was kind of awe-inspiring for about a week. Once I had to make decisions about purchases, though, the reverse culture shock was too much.
Now, I’m a huge fan of Amazon Prime. Spain has its own Amazon store, but it doesn’t include that service. Ordering something online meant waiting about a week for it to show up; as I mentioned before, efficiency is not one of Spain’s strong suits! However, when I came back home, I found out that Amazon had upped their game in my city: free two hour delivery! What?! Why is it so convenient? Why am I getting it the instant I want it?! Reverse culture shock? Yes. Stressful? Ha!
This is one of my favorite hobbies, more so when I arrive at a new place. When I returned home from Spain, I was slapped in the face by a statement I had made earlier: not only are Spaniards well-dressed, but Americans are decidedly…not. My fashion sense had gotten a bit of a boost while abroad, so walking around pedestrian Americans mixed with my reverse culture shock made me feel like some snobby, rich white girl: why am I dressed so well? Am I showing off? I must think I’m better than everyone around me!
I tell ya, when you forcibly learn how to communicate comfortably in a foreign language, coming back home and being able to talk in your own language with other native speakers is a breeze. I’ve been a tad shy in the past, and it was more obvious than ever that Spain really broke that barrier when I came home and was striking up conversation with everyone simply because I could and it was so easy. To be able to effortlessly communicate with a retail worker or server is something I will never again take for granted. I will willingly hold onto this bit of reverse culture shock as long as I can!