Define ‘culture shock’: “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.” (Source: Google)
Define ‘reverse culture shock’: the “unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.” (Source: Investopedia)
Define ‘reverse REVERSE culture shock’: the welcome relief it is to return back to the area you call home, regardless of where it is in relation to where you grew up. (Source: me)
So I spent about two weeks out of Thailand on a trip back to Canada (where my wife grew up) and the US (where I grew up). My first time back to the Western world since I left it in March of 2008, and boy was it a doozy. Some of the specific places we got to see have already been published (see the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and the downtown Asheville posts, in case you missed them), and posts on Canada are coming next week 🙂
In short, going back to Canada and the US was great on two levels. Meeting my wife’s parents for the first time in person, seeing my parents and siblings for the first time in almost six years… Oh yeah, and did I mention junk food? Yeah… we needed to get reacquainted, if only for a brief time… Some stuff just doesn’t make it out of the US, or is far easier to enjoy in the US.
But first, there was Canada — I guess the culture shock would’ve been the same in either country. By the time we got to the US, I had re-acclimated to the Western world and was looking forward to seeing what had changed in my parents neighborhood.
Take Netflix, for example. At my parent’s place, it’s hooked into the Blu-ray player. Yes, I could set up a VPN and make it work here in Thailand (or in Korea, for that matter), but I never bothered. Between pulling up a Korean movie for my mom to enjoy and browsing their vast collection, I settled in and did some writing while watching Netflix…
Yep, it was pretty damn awesome. Comfortable, too.
Fast-forward to the day after arriving back to Thailand. I was settling into my office to get some work done, and simply could not get comfortable. Adjusted the seat up and down, flipped the seat cushion, nothing felt as comfortable. For a split second, I longed for more comfortable furniture.
The realization came quickly enough: the more comforts you’re surrounded by, the harder it is to move away from them.
A comfortable chair does make work a little more pleasant, sure. Then again, if I’m focusing all my efforts on being comfortable and not getting the job done, what does that say about me?
Whether you’re looking at an English teaching job abroad, or considering how to spend your gap year, one question you might not think to ask is “how comfortable will I be?” The correct answer is not overly comfortable.
If you’re pleasantly enjoying a place, great — but keep growing.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anaïs Nin
Call it a risk or a pain, but moving from something comfortable to something new is hard. That’s my biggest reminder from going back to the US — it’s easy to get comfortable somewhere, easier still to stay somewhere because you know the place and you like it.