Reverse Culture Shock: You Can't Go Home Again
The Old Family Farm Where I Grew Up
Returning to the United States
In May of 2016, I will be returning to the United States to visit my sisters and brother. It has been almost two years since I was last back in the States. Thailand has now been my home since retirement in 2007. Things will be different this time because no one has lived in the old farmhouse where I grew up since ma's death. Actually, I will be spending most of my one week planned trip with my second oldest sister. Pat who is also a vet runs a dairy farm with my brother-in-law in northeastern Wisconsin. Her farm is quite a distance from my boyhood home. There will definitely be reverse culture shock seeing the breakup of the family farm and other recent changes in U.S. society. Reentry shock will also manifest itself in ten anticipated ways which I will describe in this hub.
What Is Reverse Culture Shock?
Reverse culture shock or reentry shock which is similar to culture shock is the situation of returning to your home environment, and then having to make adjustments to get used to your surroundings again. I feel that it is more painful than culture shock. When I returned to the U.S. on a trip about five years ago, I remember an airline steward on my United flight out of Narita in Japan enthusiastically greeting all boarding passengers with a "welcome home" as I got on the plane. I could not share his happiness, because I really didn't want to go back to the States. I knew that I would experience rootlessness, restlessness, reverse homesickness, and feelings of alienation in the U.S. because everything that I now wanted in life was in Thailand. Nothing really awaited me in America and Wisconsin except a brother and three younger sisters who haven't really been that close to me in many, many years.
An S7 Airlines Boeing 767-300ER Landing
Flooding During the Rainy Season in Thailand
Drought in Australia
Aerial View of Bangkok
A Rural Area in Southern Australia
Thai Seafood Cuisine
A Sirloin Steak American Meal
Sign Reminding Motorists to Keep to the Left When Driving in Thailand
Motorized Pedicabs or Tuk-Tuks Used for Transportation in Thailand
A Toilet Hose Used in Thailand
Ten Manifestations of Reverse Culture Shock
Aside from the reverse culture shock of seeing the old farm broken up, I anticipate experiencing the ten following types of culture shock which most people encounter.
1. Time Change
Wisconsin, my travel destination, and Bangkok are on the opposite sides of the globe. They are separated by 12 time zones. When it is 6:00 A.M. in Bangkok the day I depart, it will be 6:00 P.M.. the previous day in Wisconsin. Hence, after 22 hours of flights and layovers when I arrive at Green Bay Airport, it will be 4:00 A.M. on the following day in Bangkok, but only 4:00 P.M. on the same day in Wisconsin. After arriving in Wisconsin, my internal body clock will feel like it is 4:00 A.M. Bangkok time and I will be a walking zombie.This situation is widely referred to as jet lag. In the past, it has taken me two to three days to reorient to the time change.
2. Changes in Weather
When I depart Bangkok in October, Thailand will still be in the last few weeks of the rainy season. The weather will still be very humid with high temperatures in the low 90s. Being in a temperate climate, the fall season will have already started in Wisconsin. Possibly experiencing a drought this summer, the weather in Wisconsin will be a lot drier and cooler with temperatures in the 60s during the day and possibly dropping into the high 30s at night.
3. Clothing Change
In anticipation of the climate change, I will be wearing a jacket after I arrive in Wisconsin. It will seem strange wearing a sweater, jacket, and shoes after being accustomed to short-sleeve shirts, shorts, and sandals to move about in Bangkok.
4. Density of Population
It will really seem strange not seeing so many people packed into one geographical area. The Bangkok metropolitan area where I live has 10-15 million people. My sister, on the other hand, lives on a farm about five miles from a small city having a population of 40,000 at the most.
5. Different Food
In the Bangkok area, you can purchase almost any kind of food from numerous small restaurants and street-side stalls. A lot of the food includes seafood dishes with an abundance of shrimp, oysters, squid, clams, octopus, and various kinds of fish. The main staple is rice with a lot of fresh vegetables, few potatoes, and very little bread served at meals. Cooked meat is already cut into small pieces so that Thais only use a spoon and fork when eating. When I get back to Wisconsin, I must get used to eating again with a knife, and having potatoes and bread again instead of rice.
6. Driving on the Right Side of the Road
After arriving at Green Bay Airport, I will be renting a car to travel to my sister's farm which is about 40 miles southeast of the airport. In the U.S., people drive on the right side of the road as opposed to the left side of the road in Thailand. Besides remembering to stay on the right side of the road, I will have to reacquaint myself with a left side steering wheel as opposed to the right side steering wheel used in Thailand.
7. Less Public Transportation
Unless you live in a remote mountainous area of Thailand, there is an abundance of public transportation. It includes motorcycle taxis, motorized pedicabs, trucks converted into buses, taxis, trains, buses, and planes. Furthermore, if you live in or close to a city, a private motorcycle or car isn't really needed. In the United States, especially outside of the inner city, a car is a necessity. If you don't have a car, it's like not having two legs. In reality, there is much less affordable public transportation in the U.S. than in Thailand.
8. Different Monetary Currencies
Before departing Suvarnabhumi Airport outside of Bangkok, I must convert all of my Thai baht to U.S. dollars. The baht is weaker now at an exchange range of more than 36 baht for one U.S. dollar, so I will get less dollars for the baht that I exchange.
9. Toilet Facilities
Using the toilet is a different experience in Thailand from that in the United States. Almost all Thailand homes, schools, hotels, and public establishments have toilet hoses or bum guns installed next to all commodes. It isn't necessary to use toilet paper, because the high pressurized water which you use to clean your anus is much more convenient and more sanitary than using any kind of toilet paper. I don't look forward having to use toilet paper again in the States.
10. Having to Do Physical Labor Again
Since retiring in Taiwan, I have done very little physical labor with the exception of working in my mother-in-law's garden. This will all change when I arrive at Pat's farm and assist her with some barn chores.
You can't go home again, and for this reason I am definitely expecting reverse culture shock during my upcoming trip later this year. It will be nice seeing my brother, sisters, and all of their families again. At the same time, I will be counting the days and hours until I leave to return to my present life and loved ones in Thailand.
Reverse Culture Shock
Reverse Culture Shock Outside of Your Native Country
On a recent trip to Taiwan I also experienced reverse culture shock. On a trip to Taiwan in 2005, I was astonished at how much Taiwan had changed in only 15 years. Many of the places that I knew so well in 1990 were gone and replaced with something entirely alien to me. The people were also different from the ones that I had know in the past. This was more reinforced on my most recent trip to Taiwan in November of 2014.
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