That Little Thing Called Reverse Culture-Shock

Yes, it’s real. And I don’t know if it comes as more of a shock or an expectation, but there’s no avoiding it. It hit me nearly as soon as I got off of the plane and was enveloped in the U.S. of A and all of its American-ness. Starbucks on every corner! Friendly customer service! Big portions! Yikes—coming fresh from the land of tiny tapas, a completely different coffee culture (to-go cups be damned) and fairly non-existent customer service, I needed a few days to decompress a bit.

First, there’s English. Oh, my sweet mother-tongue that I can understand without effort! I’m reminded of how back in my adopted country I can shut out Spanish and nearby conversations with much more ease. Here, it takes a conscious effort. Here, conversations I really don’t want to listen to are assaulting my ears.

Now Spain, and the States, while different, aren’t so different as say, the States and Morocco. So, my reverse culture shock is definitely more about the little things. Like the time I went to the grocery store and marveled at the fact that we not only have peanut butter here, but like, 15 different kinds of it. There’s crunchy peanut butter, organic peanut butter, PB&J peanut butter…and probably peanut butter made with free-range peanuts. :) There’s so much choice here, it’s overwhelming.

Then, there’s driving. I don’t drive in Spain, but I do when I’m home. Even driving again is weird, I always feel nervous the first day or two like I’m going to forget how to do it…then I’m just so happy I don’t have to take public transport everywhere that driving becomes an absolute joy.

There’s also SO many more ways to spend money here, that just don’t tempt me back in Spain…Target, I’m looking at you! It doesn’t help that Dollar to Euro conversion is in my favor and everything is cheaper here…but I digress.

Reverse culture shock does exist, people.

According to Wikipedia, these are the symptoms of reverse culture shock:

  • Excessive concern over cleanliness and health
  • Feelings of helplessness and withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Glazed stare
  • Desire for home and old friends
  • Physiological stress reactions
  • Homesickness
  • Boredom
  • Withdrawal
  • Getting “stuck” on one thing
  • Suicidal or fatalistic thoughts
  • Excessive sleep
  • Compulsive eating/drinking/weight gain
  • Stereotyping host nationals
  • Hostility towards host nationals

You see that one third from the bottom about eating? Ohh, yeah, compulsive eating. While my eating habits aren’t compulsive, they are really enthusiastic…so stay tuned for an “American Diet” post coming to the blog at the conclusion of my trip where you can see all of the delicious things I’ve been gorging myself on enjoying while home. :)

Have you experienced reverse culture shock? How did you deal with it?

*This post was made possible by liligo.es, a site for searching for and booking flights. 

4 comments on “That Little Thing Called Reverse Culture-Shock”

  1. Heather Reply

    Loved reading this post. When I was home over Christmas, I felt all these things. What’s more is that my mother and brother kept pointing my “different ness” out. Like I came back from working as a circus freak.

    But then I went to Starbucks and Target. I felt better.

    • Christine Reply

      Haha, Target is an obligatory stop every visit home! I’m loving your Rome photos–I just got back from there. Will be posting about it soon!

  2. Kurt W Reply

    Interesting. After 4 years abroad I will be back in the US now. Ironically, the last year I have resided in Morocco. Although I have been back in the summers, I agree, there is a bit of a transition period.

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