Culture Shock is real. Reverse Culture shock is just as real.
When we decided to go on the mission field, we were prepared for this horrible, monstrous beast that would infect our lives after the “honeymoon” period of living in a new country wore off. This beast was called culture shock. And he came. Sometimes disguised and unannounced, sometimes invited in, as a welcome guest, to our very own pity party. But after a few months of language learning and cultural adjusting, we beat the beast and were happily living in our new culture. The beast would sometimes stop by for a visit, but we let him know that he was no longer welcome and that was that.
It sounds so easy to write it in a few sentences, when those of you that have gone through it know that it is much more than that. But an even weirder phenomenon, in my opinion, is reverse culture shock. This crazy thing you experience when returning to your HOMEland.
I grew up in America. I have lived 24 out of my 26 years in America. I have being an American down to a science. So, what’s the problem? After all, it is home, isn’t it?
Here’s what happens:
When you return to your home country after having a cultural experience, you have changed. Your worldview is a little bit wider and your sympathy for other people and other cultures a little bit stronger. The difference is everyone else around you did not have the same experience as you. They had lots of cool experiences in the time you were gone, just not in the same way you did.
Its like reading a great book. You can’t describe the story in a way that someone could understand as well as if they actually had the chance to read the book themselves. You can tell the basics of the story, but in order to completely communicate the experience, they would have to hear the sounds, smell the scents, feel the emotions that happen when you dive into a great book. The basics just don’t quite get the whole message across.
Its exactly the same with having a cultural experience. Words just aren’t enough. Pictures help but they just don’t have the same meaning to everyone else, as they do to you. People want to understand and they try, but to no fault of their own, they just can’t.
So, then you feel it. The shock of reverse culture shock. That weird, creepy feeling that you just don’t belong. You just don’t belong…at home.
What do you do? Where do you belong? Who are you? Are you really American? But you love to have your afternoon coffee, wear houseshoes, and sit for hours with your neighbors to just talk? And you can’t beat that hankering for a Bratwurst! Are you German? How could that be, when every moment in that country you were reminded of the fact that you were a foreigner?!
To be Continued in Reverse Culture Shock: Part 2