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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reverse Culture Shock

I guess it is unavoidable but it doesn’t make it any easier. I got a bad case of the old re-entry shock fever and I know the only cure! This isn’t my first time returning to Canada after being abroad for an extended period of time, in fact I find it much easier this time around than the first two bouts. I’ve been home for about 4 months now and I’m getting a little tired of editing my 6 month old travel photos and writing up old stories. I guess being stuck at work for 40 hours a week brewing coffee doesn’t help but I feel the old travel bug like an itchy throat before that inevitable fall cold. “Reverse Culture Shock" (a.k.a. "Re-entry Shock", or "own culture shock") is something anyone can expect to experience after adjusting to a foreign culture and then returning home. Unlike culture shock (getting use to a foreign culture) reverse culture shock tend to hit a lot harder. I think this is because you never expect it. How can my own home, my own culture shock me. I find myself thinking back to the places I lived abroad and how the bad things at the time seem so trivial now. I don’t know how one can begin to miss the insanity of a place like Indonesia or China. Even the bad things start to seem good; the cramped buses and giant insects. The hundreds of pairs of staring eyes following your every move where ever you go. Somehow I miss it and the North American culture starts to seem like a censored version of reality. Like there is always a curtain between you and every experience you have. Nothing seems as real as the hardship of the people of the world, earning their life ploughing fields to grow just enough food to live. Such care they take of the little things, such a care I cannot express in words. They know things our ancestors knew and they still value things like wisdom and thrift. Nothing seems as authentic as the as the cultures I have encounter in the wilder places of the world. Ancient and noble are the traditions that reach deep into the past. I’ve met people hoping only to live the day and fill their bowl, such a simplicity I would never have known if it weren’t for them.


How can one go on amongst the ravenous consumerism that has engulfed our culture? To me everything seems insane. All I can see are people’s unsatisfied desires wreaking havoc on their own minds, their family and friends and the environment upon which we depend. Surprisingly for the most part everyone seems to be totally unaware that there is anything wrong. The collective consciousness of mankind is in turmoil and most people seem totally unaware of where we are headed as a species. Everything is fine if I can have my car my TV and everyone else just leaves me alone! I don’t care who made it and what eco system was plundered to bring it to me I just need it and I need it now. Destructive thoughts like these are acceptable in our culture now and beginning to seep into all cultures around the world. I guess this is what happens to my mind when I return home. The insanity of it all scares me. And so I will inevitably pack my bags once again and return to my search for truth in the only place I can truly call home, the road.

1 comment:

  1. I commend you in your search for authenticity. I have also had moments where I look around and I want to scream that there is something utterly wrong around us. Other days I look around and see the things that people are doing to counteract the madness. Sanity for me is found in simplicity, and closing the distance between myself, my sustenance and the people I care about. I have avoided air travel, and have taken to channelling these macro-scale frustrations into tangible things I can do daily. Eat vegan, grow my own food, write letters, volunteer, and carve out the space in my life for following my intrinsic inspiration to learn, create, and reflect. Through these actions for me, I have connected with a community of people that jive with my discontent. Through that connection, natural inertia takes place to propel action for social justice and ecological sustainability, while at the same we have a great time and put a few more stones towards a supportive bedrock. This route has felt more empowering than the feeling I got when looking up on the vastness of how effed the systems are, which makes me feel so small, so angry. I hope you can find a community of people that support you in your journey. I am grateful that people from different places have come into contact with you, because through shared experience we all become a little more connected and humility and humanity and that place of naive love and kindness takes over. Much love to you on your travels. ~Sarah

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