First person: The reverse (other) culture shock
”Life can really be nice when you travel around the world, but it can be more than difficult by the time you get home! Since my last trip, every event I go to I find it boring. Just a bunch of sad people sitting around drinking and mostly complaining….”
Travelling overseas for a job, school and adventure has become our second nature. We plan every small detail, we learn about the culture, traditions, food and the people. We mentally prepare ourselves for what to expect from a country and we are trained to understand the differences in culture. Many travelers, me included, react this way because we work to avoid culture shock. Even with all those efforts, we still experience it. But what about the culture shock you experience when you return home?
Don’t you feel like a foreigner once you return home?
I did. I returned home to Gabon for a visit after having lived in the Netherlands for six months and I experienced some things that I didn’t expect. For starts, I had this feeling of being ‘stuck’ and I didn’t understand it. At first I thought it was depression creeping upon me but then I realized something else; I was experiencing a reverse of culture shock many travelers talk about.
It was surprising to see how little interest people showed in me following my many travels. As with others who have experienced this form of culture shock, people around me did not understand me or my new way of thinking. The world had changed me and I began to feel like I didn’t fit in. That feeling was the worst thing that can happen when your life aboard was filled with happiness but yet during your time abroad you missed the ‘familiar’ surroundings of home. However, I quickly began to realize that the place called ‘home’ had changed and was now a foreign place.
Conversations changed and the commonalities I once shared with friends and family had disappeared. No one had a clue about what I experienced and the excitement about being home flipped away. My ‘normal’ life seemed worst than what I perceived it was when I left home. My experiences did not translate to family or friends. When talking about bungee jumping off the Macau Tower, dancing Azonto in the streets of Accra, camping in Koh Rong in Cambodia, watching the sunrise and sunset in Siem Riep or even having the best kimchi in Korea, people’s eyes glazed over and no one shared in my excitement. This culture shock is very anticlimactic. At first, I justified it to their limited view of the world but soon figured out it was me. As much as they’re not interested in traveling overseas or even the world around them, I am not interested in living in one place all my life.
The world changed me but I decided to embrace the changes. I am living in each moment and have become proactive with my own cultural education and growth. I joined the community group of Couch Surfing in The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Leiden. Where I meet twice a week people from across the world, we share our travel experiences, talk the same language and understand each others jokes. I visit once a week my Chinatown where I enjoy finding the differences between Chinese and Korean products. I joined a Spanish class where we enjoy having Spanish delicatessen while learning the language. I found my Korean restaurant in The Hague where the BBQ is amazing and Soju-Kiwi is just the best. Once a month I travel to one European country where I’m hosted for a couple days by people from Rome, Barcelona, Paris etc…Yes, I decided to create my world while waiting for my next overseas experience.
Marie-Noelle Anaella is a creative thinker who was born in Gabon, raised in China and is now based in the Netherlands where she spends her days merging work and volunteer activities across Africa. She is a ”Third Culture Kid” and global citizen and these experiences have changed her view of the world and has taken her to a place with deeper meanings of life. Read more about Marie-Noelle and her travel and life journeys at her site Marie Blogging.