Posts tagged “Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock

Written May 3, 2013
I decided to move back to the US. Well, I decided to do that a while ago. I’ve already moved back to the US. My fiancée and I agreed it is better that I come here first and set up house before she comes over. Right, I’m engaged now, too. It really has been a long time since I last posted, hasn’t it?

I arrived in San Francisco last week. Being back in the US is so surreal. Like I’m in a dream on the verge of waking, brushed with a sense of déjà vu. Everything is familiar but strange. Kinda hazy.

American money still feels weird to me. Bills are all the same size, and so many coins of so little value. I keep trying to pay with quarters and then realize that would be kind of dickish. And it’s all so fragrant.

I keep forgetting tax isn’t included in prices. I’ll have the amount ready and then – oh, another eighteen cents? Hold on a moment. Well, okay, yeah. Just take it out of the five. Now I have another handful of quarters and pennies. At least I haven’t forgotten to tip yet.

Breasts. Of so many sizes and shapes. Well, really just variations on one shape.  But they have heft and bounce and are partly exposed. I’m only now realize how much I’ve been starved for the sight of cleavage. Call me a chauvinist or a pervert, but I’m just realizing how conservative the clothing of Tokyo was, and scale of difference between the mammaries of Japan and the US. It warms my heart.

Lots more cars, far fewer trains. The cars with mustaches confused the hell out of me at first. I miss hopping on the train and just going anywhere. But taxis are reasonable option here, and many if my friends have cars and can give me a ride. There’s just more space out here for cars.

Oh and how there is space. I feel like I’ve been let out of a bodice three sizes to small. On the one hand, I feel like it takes longer to do small errands because everything is spread out. On the other hand, I don’t feel so agitated by the constant crowd of people.

I keep being asked by friends what I miss about Japan. The answer? Nothing. I haven’t been back long enough to miss it. I’m sure in time I will miss some or all of it. But I was there for there years. Weird as it sounds Japan feels old hat to me and America feels shiny and new.  I’m happy to be back in the US.


Second Time Around

Living in a foreign country can be strange. It can be exciting and stressful, confusing and enlightening, depressing and uplifting. The experience is unique for everyone and unique in itself. This is my third time in Japan; my second time living here. My last visit was a whirlwind of excitement and without question the best vacation I ever had. My first time living here – despite its troubles – is still something I look back on positively.

There’s nothing like the first time. Everything is new. Everything is different. The discovery of similarities to your native land are as exciting as discovering the differences. One can easily become jaded and complacent as an adult. Having the simplest experiences feel novel is a refreshing return to youth. Best of all you have others to share this with, like grade school playmates. They, too, are finding this same elation and want to share it with you. Nick – my former partner in crime- commented accurately that living in Japan is like being a child again.  You can barely communicate, you understand very little and comprehending something new feels like a great triumph. Everything is a first.

The second time is not the first, nor does it hold the same excitement. I suppose that goes without saying. I did something uncommon in leaving and coming back. As a result I have a very different context than other people I meet. The every day minutia is not as exciting to me as it is my coworkers, for whom it is their first time in Japan.  I also am not settled into the country the way those who are second or third year ALTs are settled. Consequently I often feel I have trouble relating to other foreigners here. This is improving, but it is a frustrating place to be. Excited as I was to return, the second time around is different.

The second stage of culture shock is the Negotiation Phase. The former feelings of elation fade to frustration and anger from displeasing encounters. Having lived in Japan before I thought myself exempt from such shock, but obviously I was wrong. I entered into this situation with a lot of expectations that were not fulfilled. What I am left with is not bad, but in my arrogance I sometimes blind myself to the good around me. In knowing and wanting something else I miss what is there.  When I knew not, I wanted not and grabbed hold of each experience. Truly, ignorance is bliss.

I will adapt again. I know this. I also know that the friends I have now who I can relate to are something special.I learned that the last time as well. When you go back home, it’s like you’ve left a part of yourself behind. You want the best of both worlds. You will always feel split between them. You see how much has changed in your home and  in your friends. But the biggest change is the hardest to see.  That is the change in yourself. You share something special with the friends you go through that with, or friends you meet who have also gone through that. You understand each other in ways most people won’t. This isn’t a bond made with everyone, but the few people it is made with it are priceless.