Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anticipated Reverse Culture Shock

The other night Amy and I rode back on the train from Vinnitsa.  She asked me about reverse culture shock (which is what happens when you re-enter your passport/home country after being abroad) and how it had affected me last year and in the summer.  We realized that though we have anticipated some of the more basic aspects of re-entry shock, we will not be able to anticipate all aspects, especially those that will throw us for a loop.

Here is how I described reverse culture shock 2 years ago.  "Familiar" refers to the home culture, and "unfamiliar" refers to the culture abroad.

(version 1) When you miss the familiarity of the unfamiliar, and the familiar is suddenly unfamiliar.

(version 2) When you switch from the familiarity of the unfamiliar, and the unfamiliarity is what "should" be familiar

Amy and I brainstormed a list of things that would be "strange" to us at Christmastime -- here is some of that list. 

*Understanding strangers talking on the bus or out in public
*Store clerks being friendly/making conversation, despite not knowing me
*Stores- large stores with huge selections and familiar brands
*No street dogs roaming around (thank goodness!)
*Having a car all to myself, driving through the countryside, in solitude
*Not needing a translator for church, having to operate in my third language instead of my first, or just plain not understanding
*Random people smiling and saying hi to me
*Fully comprehending food labels instead of recognizing the words, sounding out the name, or identifying food by its picture
*Snack flavors/types (in Ukraine, you can buy flavored croutons or chips that are flavored like crab or bacon)
*Common notebook paper in the US is lined 8.5"x11".  Here, students might use that (or half of a sheet), or they might use grid paper
*Life expectancy of fresh food (because the food here does not have as many preservatives, we have to make sure we don't leave food for too long
*Not as much second hand smoke while walking down the street
*No beer kiosks (or just kiosks in general) every block
*American fashion styles that are different from the Ukranian/European styles
*Not seeing/talking to my Ukraine family
No babushkas selling veggies, raw fish, or flowers on the street corners
*No squatty potties
*Bookstores that have a majority of their books in English! (and English is not considered a "foreign" language!)
*Being out of the loop when it comes to American pop culture (which is a good thing)
*Plowed streets/sidewalks
*Non-colorful currency and comp
*Position/placement of light switches
*Seeing friends and family often
*Racial diversity in the greater community
*Seeing the American flag, and the red/white/blue color scheme rather than yellow and blue
*Clear distinctions between commercial buildings and residential areas
*No underground mall/passageways/stores/crosswalks
*People giving me substantial personal space in public
*Flushing my toilet paper/a handle instead of button

1 comment:

  1. I know how that feels...when you're uncomfortable by the familiarity of what surrounds you. After spending months being inundated with new, exciting, scary and comfort-zone stretching circumstances everyday, you get this funny complex where in fact - the familiar is unfamiliar! hahaha!