Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Reverse Culture Shock"

Both Eric and I are pretty much a "go with the flow" type of people, so it was little surprise to me that we didn't really experience any culture shock when moving to Thailand just over one year ago. I haven't had any moments that have made me throw up my hands and say "I'm done" or any fits of uncontrollable crying. I am not saying that I won't experience some sort of freak out in the future, but so far I would say I've adjusted fairly well.

So it came as a huge surprise during my recent month long trip back to the United States that I experienced a little bit of reverse culture shock. There were many things that shocked and confused me, but there were also things that I found joy and delight in rediscovering. 

Efficient Bureaucracy
The first time reverse culture shock hit me was when I was waiting in the Immigration and Customs line at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. There was an Immigration officer actually directing people into the correct lines! This was so confusing, especially after dealing with the huge lines and mass confusion at immigration in the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. It was a nice change of pace, but confusing none the less.

Driving a car
One of things that I really missed about being in the United States was the ability to just hop in a car and drive to the grocery store or to visit friends across the state. While I went through the long process of getting my Thai Driver's license, I have yet to actually drive a car in the Land of Smiles. The thought of actually having to navigate a vehicle through traffic composed of taxis lane diving to find the fastest route and motorcycles weaving through the smallest gaps between cars makes me break out in to a nervous sweat. 

So, needless to say, I was very excited about being able to drive again during our visit to the United States. I spent much of the flight worrying that I had forgotten how to drive or that I would accidentally drive on the wrong side of the road. In the end, my fears were unfounded and I enjoyed many hours of driving through Wisconsin and Oregon with my windows down and my favorite music on the radio. It was a great break from my usual car rides in the back seat of an over air conditioned taxi blaring the latest Thai pop songs. 

Sensory Overload
I think this form of reverse culture shock was the most surprising for me, especially since I've been living for the past year in a city of 8 million people. The city constantly assults all of your senses -smell, sound, touch, taste. It is a chaotic mess, but one I've grown accustomed to and have even started to enjoy.

So it came as a huge shock when I wandered into the local Target store and immediately got a headache. The store was so bright and clean and all the signs were in English and there was a buzz of conversation around me and I could understand it ALL!

Living in a country where I don't speak or read the language, I've grown accustomed to blocking out most conversations and ignoring most signs because they are in Thai and obviously don't pertain to me. So it was really overwhelming when I came back to the US and my filters no longer functioned and my brain had to cope with all of this new information.

Plus, I think I was also overwhelmed with happiness at being in a Target store. They really should open one in Bangkok- especially one that carries Western sized clothing and shoes. I would NEVER leave! 

So Many Choices!
Awesome micro-brewed Beer and affordable cheese- need I say more??
Sand Creek + Campfire = Match made in WI heaven 
So many choices....
New Foods!
While shopping for supplies to bring back to Bangkok, I played a fun game of "Find the new food items". The goal was to find as many new types and flavors of snack foods as I could. I think I did pretty well!

Too bad I don't like coconut
Cherry Dr. Pepper desert topping sounds so awful 
Monster marshmallows!!!
Best thing EVER! Should have brought a case back with me.
All in all it was a great trip to see family and friends, enjoy cool weather and eat awesome food. And now that I know about the reverse culture shock, I will be better prepared on our next trip back.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post! Good preview since I'm heading back to the US in 2 months after 13 months in Thailand...