A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Friday, April 1, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

I have heard about culture shock for years and experienced it at times throughout my PC service to various degrees. Often times I like to think I am stronger than the patterns psychology tells us we fit into. I've always read about people who return to America from some cross-culture experience and find themselves crying in the grocery store. I was not going to be one of those people. I know about culture shock and reverse culture shock. I have tried to mentally prepared myself for reentry into consumer-culture America so I wasn't going to be as affected as those other people who couldn't handle readjustment.

Today, I went to the grocery store with my mom. We walked in and I looked at the waxy looking fruits and vegetables. We passed aisles and aisles of foods I hadn't seen in 2 years. I told my mom how ridiculous the number of choices we have for canned tomatoes was. Throughout our time in what I believe is an excessive grocery store, I felt in control of my feelings and believed all the talk of reverse culture shock wasn't going to happen to me. I'm stronger than that.

But then we turned into the dairy section and something switched inside me. My skin began to itch. My chest felt heavy and I found myself taking deeper breaths. I touched my mom's sleeve and told her we needed to get out of there soon. She turned to me smiling about to make a joke then saw my face and asked why. And then, the tears started flowing out of my eyes. I couldn't stop them. She passed me the car keys and I ran out of the grocery story crying. Yes, I am like all those other people who get struck by reverse culture shock. Human behavior really isn't all that different. We're not as unique and special as we like to think. As educated and aware of the facts of culture shock and reverse culture shock I am, I still must go through it. I guess a new phase begins...

5 comments:

  1. I am crying right now for you.

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  2. p.s. all I can think about right now is when you will get to meet Behr. I am excited for that day!

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  3. my reverse culture shock: i have walked right up to the deli counter in my town and said 'hey i'd like 1/2 pound of turkey' the guy looked at me like i had two heads and said 'i only speak english' i had said the whole order in french without realizing it.

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  4. Hey amanda! I know it's been awhile. I completely understand your reverse culture shock... it's especially dramatic when going home from Uganda. After I was in Uganda, I backpacked around Europe. I found myself saving any kind of paper or wrappings that I would receive in stores... wanting to use all of my resources. I was overwhelmed by lights and how they're always on in the Western world... my mind was constantly dwelling on all the little designs and inventions ever present in the developed world. Even when I moved into my apartment after college, I hardly found it necessary to buy furniture or specialized items for the house, knowing that we could make do just fine with few things. I burst into tears the first night in England, after watching my cousins drop about $80 on drinks when we went out. It's intense... just hang in there though and write down all your thoughts. We should talk sometime, or write! <3 Sarah

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  5. I just came back from Mexico after spending 9 months there. Although it's been a couple of months since I have been back, I still allow myself to cry and let it out...it's so hard. Hugs

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