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Reverse Culture Shock
It seems people mostly talk about how they become culturally shocked when they go to a new place. The people are so different, the food, the rules, or lack thereof, etc… My experience was a little different.
I grew up in the US of A and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to leave “The American Dream” and go be a beach bum in the tropics.
Arriving to the Dominican Republic I wasn’t culture shocked because I had spent many summers there. I’m also a native of the land so my parents hold many of the customs. I spent almost three years living in the small town of Cabarete and it was beautiful.
Because it’s a small town, I run into people everywhere I go. Also, Dominicans, by nature, are very gregarious people. They will say hi, make a joke and communicate. If you look at them, they look at you and say hi with a big smile.
What I never expected to happen was to be reverse culture shocked.
After three years in the DR I returned to the USA and, boy!, was I surprised to see that, although nothing really changed, I was so confused.
Was this the life I had always lived? Where these the rules I had followed so blatantly? A lot of questions came to mind and I noticed many things I hadn’t before. For example:
People Don’t Say Hi:
This to me was the biggest shock of all. I come from a Latin background and we’re very approachable people, most of the time.
Saying hi to others and giving smiles is customary. One beautiful sunny afternoon Jade and I had some errands to run. Walking through the busy streets, we passed numerous people. I greeted most people with a smile and sometimes a “Hi” but kept walking as I know people are busy.
Ninety percent of the time I got rude looks, puzzled faces, people looking down or away, people walking faster and simply put, trying at all costs to avoid communication. Now I know I’m not the sexiest man alive, but I definitely don’t look like I’m going to rob you. (or do I?!)
Wow, this right here actually exists? Coming back I was baffled by how friendly and helpful the employees were everywhere that we went. I even had to double check with Jade to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating and asked if people are this on point everywhere. The reply was a yes.
Wait, you mean I have to walk 500 feet in the opposite direction I’m going and wait for a blinker thingy to tell me I’m allowed to cross the street? That seems so backwards.
To me it’s just asking for people to get hit by a car.
I observed countless people crossing these things in complete oblivion. If a car ran the light, if the walk sign accidentally went on, or if anything out of the ordinary happened, most people would not have been too fortunate. Just the other day I saw a kid cross a four way intersection, head down, reading a book, never once looking to make sure cars were not coming.
Rules, rules and more rules.
Not being in the states for so long I actually forgot how to drive here!!!!
In the DR it’s kind of a free for all. Yea there are technically rules, and if a cop catches you breaking one he may or may not pull you over, but really, it’s kind of every man for themselves.
I have no problem with this because it actually makes you a better driver. You need to be aware all the time for cars, motorcycles, animals, holes, donkeys, etc. It’s the same concept as the crosswalk, you make everything so “safe” and you take away the awareness of people.
Ahhhhh, so many of them!!! I understand that certain rules must be in place for the sake of the greater good, but it feels a little ridiculous sometimes. How will people learn to be aware of their surroundings if they’re always thinking about how they’re breaking the law, if this and that.
So there you have it ladies and gent’s. That’s how you get a reverse culture shock. It was really quite the eye opening experience. I suggest to anyone who has the means to, to get out of their current country and live somewhere else for a while. It will really open your mind and give you a new perspective on things, whether it’s appreciating the simple things or wondering why you actually live where you do.
Before you go, Jade also had her own set of reverse culture shocks, so stick around for a bonus round!
Dollar bill y’all
Gosh, North America’s expensive!
From movies to campgrounds, it seems everything is after a meaty chunk of your wallet. And if you don’t got none, you aint welcome.
Where did all the ugly veggies go?
When I walk into a grocery store a couple things boggle my mind:
First, why is it so large that I need a road map to get to the aisle that harbors the sea salt?
Second, why do all the fruits and veggies look like a factory pumped them out? I know that’s not how they all came off the tree. What do you do with all the ugly veggies North America? I demand to know the truth!
Grocery store side note to the lady at the deli counter (you know who you are) The fact that your ham was sliced a number grade too high is not the worst thing in the universe, let’s put things into perspective.
Lack of cultural variation
There is one navigational mystery that in my mind rivals that of the Bermuda Triangle:
How can one drive three thousand miles and end up at the same strip mall, with the same fast food, and the same chain stores, in the same layout, with the same sales, and pretty much the same people. How?!
But the greatest shock…
Forced media consumption
Do I really need to know what Kanye West did during the Grammys….. while pumping my gas?!?!
When did these gas station screens come in? And why is there no “OFF” button?
After spending three years deliberately avoiding the cultural clutter that is filling up our minds faster than our physical trash can fill our oceans, coming back to a civilization that force-feeds me this garbage against my will, everywhere I look, is a hard pill to swallow.
First the billboards, then the supermarket checkout, the cabbies, restaurants, and even gas stations all seem to now come mandatorily equipped with screens who’s job it is to slip some not-so-subtle pop-culture/product-placement between each of my blinks.
C’mon, I gotta gas up, I got no choice, my Westy’s hungry. Please leave me in peace at the pump.
Have you experienced reverse culture shock?
What has been difficult for you to come home to or adjust to all over again?