Tag: Culture Shock

A Bittersweet Homecoming

Anyone stuck in the cycle of saving big and traveling big knows the pangs of coming home after a long trip. The highs and lows’ll make your head spin.

How To Deal With Reverse Culture Shock
Avoid Value Judgments: Not better, not worse, just different

Reassess the Meaning of Beauty: We tend to seek beauty high and low while we’re nomading, and slack in this department while sedentary. Remember the mind state you had while traveling that heightened your awareness of the things you like. Try to find that head space while you’re visiting home.

Explore Your Hometown: This one goes with the last point of taking your brain home with you.

Learn What You Took For Granted: Running water, reliable electricity, easy (same language) conversations, and relatively less governmental corruption are great things.

Create a New Routine! Routines may break our core creativity and excitement, but they’re particularly important if you have to settle in and start making money again (it’s only temporary anyways, right?) Don’t fall back on old patterns, break out and make new friends. Keep your friends who embrace the changes you’ve made for yourself, and seek out new friends, especially other travelers in your area. You’ll probably have a lot in common with them.

Share Travel Stories Sparingly: What you’ve been through is a big deal in your world, but to most people, it isn’t. If your stories meet glossy eyes, change the subject. You’ll know when someone’s interested, and that’s the right time to share.

Remember Why You’re Home: There is a reason for it, isn’t there?

The main reason for coming home is also the richest: reconnecting with the fam.

But the first few days of being a foreigner in your own country are hectic:
Hold up, everyone’s speaking English?
How can cars be enormous and traffic so orderly?
These crazy prices are real. Stop converting to dollars!

Especially when landing in da Souf: Why is everyone so FAT!!

Some (moronic) people expatriate purely for escape, as if running from who they really are. Coming off the highs of intentional travel and coming home is an asskicker, but it’s essential for maintaining balance and staying grounded. What’s a tree without roots? We got to get back and freshen up on our own cultures from time to time.

Some people say America has no culture. First off, functioning societies don’t exist without culture. It’s impossible. Second, the diversity and history of the experiment of the USA are amazing. And finally, I agree that greed and glamor are on the upswing here, but there’s a lot to love in the spirit of self-aggrandizement. So long as you got a trace a brain in your head and try to offset your negative impacts on the world, then go ahead and stock up on boats, SUV’s, electronics, get rich quick schemes, and infomercial junk. BUT, the more you take, the more you should probably give back.

“A wise traveler never despises his own country. ” –Carlo Goldoni

Coming from the West, homecoming’s a time to count my blessings. After meeting so many people in east Asia with American Dreams, I’ve had to take a second look at the things I’ve taken for granted in the heartland. Running water, hot showers, sit-down toilets and toilet paper have suddenly taken on a new meaning. American civil society is fun as hell, and there’s no doubt that it’s well-ripened, if not past its prime…

To my friends with American Dreams, wherever you may be: every place has its problems. My country experiences a mindless devotion to total work, something like a money cult that’s probably only rivaled in Japan and South Korea. THIS is something that I like to escape because there’s a lot more to life than helping rich people get richer by selling my precious time.

You can earn American bucks here, but you gotta spend ‘em too, and they’re declining against the rest of the world’s major currencies! Quite a paradox. Especially for us.

That’s why it’s high time to embrace the New American Dream.

It’s a pleasure to be back home, but my feet are the new masters of the universe.

All I need to do now is realize where I wanna be before I’m enchanted out the door yet again with caution thrown to the wind. The best adventures are left to chance aren’t they? I can already feel another walk-about coming on.

How do you deal with homecoming and reverse culture shock?
By economic necessity I’m back to total work (for now!)

Culture Shock in China

Any Westerner’s first visit to China’s gonna be met with shock. Simply put Chinese society is fairly chaotic, especially when compared to orderly Asian societies like Hong Kong and Singapore.

Books and school had taught me that the most important feature of ancient Chinese life (when Confucianism was strong) was the concept of yielding to one another, to nature and even the way of the Universe. The death of this notion is nowhere more obvious than in modern Chinese traffic. If a Chinese car, motorcycle or person has even a remote chance of making it, they’re going for it, and it’s up to you to get out of the way.

Traffic’s only the beginning. If you’re thinking of coming to China, here’s a list of the other ways your Western sentimentalities will be shocked:

Staring (outside of the most major cities) at foreigners is likely the first thing you’ll notice. China’s only been open to the world for about the last 40 years, so you’ll be served up as a visual barbeque. It’s usually not a hostile stare, but one that’s so consistent you can feel it cutting through you core. Don’t even try to stare back, because they won’t budge.

Spitting is out of control. The street, supermarkets, restaurants, elevators, hotel lobbies and busses are all fair game for a deep, lung-hackin’ loogy. Prepare to hear peoples’ attempts to pull their lungs out their nasal cavities when hockiin’ a loog.

The volume of Chinese voices is never regulated for others. And they can be damn LOUD when they feel the need. Bring earplugs for long bus and train rides!

Random HELLO’s! and picture-taking are probably the most common interaction between foreigners and Chinese. I’ll admit that I thought it was kind of endearing at first, but now I try bolt any other direction of these annoyances. I guess what really turned me off was all the sneaky picture-taking when my head was turned the other way.

Chaos in “lines” is another blaring feature of life in China. There’s no discernible concept of let’s stand in line and give each other space, particularly in bus and train lines where you’ll be mercilessly pushed and shoved (even by old ladies) if you aren’t ready. Best advice: sharpen your elbows and unleash a fury when it’s time to go.

Sanitation’s on a whole ‘nother level in China. Here it’s ok to throw your trash on the ground or take a piss in the street. You’ll probably even see a baby or two dumping out a load while the parent holds their assless chaps over the gutter. Also try not to be surprised the first time someone sneezes directly on you.

Polution will be a major concern for any foreign traveler to China. The air quality of many Chinese cities is actually hazardous to human health. Besides being overused in several regions, water is reportedly causing serious health problems for local Chinese residents. Finally soil erosion has reached such a severe level in Manchuria (the Northeastern region) that it could ultimately eliminate agricultural prospects in the region forever. China’s at a turning point whereby it could become a world leader in environmental policy, but if the Chinese Communist Party continues running its current course it could wind up facing environmental disasters on a scale never seen before.

Violence, to end on a sort of positive note, is pretty minimal in China. It’s more common to see people shouting horrific obscenities at full volume (and remember, they are LOUD) than to actually see a fight. And in my experience if they start swinging, expect to see the type of punches that cats throw at each other. It seems like violence has found its home as a mantelpiece under drinking. Turning down a drink is unthinkably embarrassing, so expect to see hordes of Chinese men rolling around in their own piles of baijiu (a common, absurdly fowl-smelling rice liquor) at 9pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

Hopefully this little list can help prospective Sino travelers. Once you’ve dealt with the initial shock of these behaviors they start to become funny in a bewildering sort of way.

Coping with Culture Shock

Makin' new friends

Without a “cure” for culture shock, it’s best to look at the strategies for coping with it. When getting ready to leave, slow the frantic process of storing your stuff, packing your bags and saying goodbye to give yourself some time to prepare for the transition. Spend a day researching the history and social etiquette of the host culture. Learn the most basic phrases of the local language before you find yourself looking for an apartment and trying to navigate your new surroundings without a clue how to speak. Remember that cultural differences are that and nothing more. Avoid making ethnocentric, moral judgments against the host culture whenever possible.

When cultural differences are too striking to ignore during the second stage of adjustment, find a way to bridge a connection to home. Write a letter to a relative, watch your favorite movie or skype with your best friend. Keep a journal about your experiences cause you’ll love to read it years later. Minimize your pride and try to find humor in the ridiculous situations you encounter. Keep a positive attitude and be persistent about learning during this important time of your life. Remember why you left home in the first place: to meet new people and fit new pieces into the great puzzle of humanity. As always, live a little adventure and bring home some stories to light up the night.

Meet Dave

Meet DaveUnfulfilled by consumer lifestyles, I left on a really slow trip around the world. As a 3rd eye traveler on the New American Dream, my aim is to inspire and cultivate conscious living along the way....Read More...

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Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
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