It has been seventeen months (Yes, a lot) since I started my fellowship and now I am getting prepared to go back home, to my beautiful Colombia. However, I have to admit I have some fears about my re-adaptation at home as I feel so well adapted to my current life. I pretty remember Dr. Gary Weaver when talking about reverse cultural shock. He well stated what studies have shown: the more you are adapted to a current culture, the harder may be the reverse cultural shock experienced once you go back to your home country. Therefore, as a way to start my preparation, I decided to talk to three of my dear fellow fellows from class 17 who just arrived home a few weeks ago and ask them about how do they feel the reverse cultural shock. Enjoy their experiences and get prepared!
My dear Friend Tarika from India stated: “…getting back to India has been way tougher than I expected it to be. I really expected it to be smooth given I’ve lived here all my life. I guess reverse culture shock is real. So physically, I’m finding it super hot, I’ve caught the flu already and I just can’t eat any spicy food! I’ve also been generally disoriented – I don’t remember any of the light switches at home, I forgot to take the sealink the other day and got stuck in a 2.5 hours traffic jam because of a random festival celebration on the roads. There’s more – I came back to a cupboard full of fungus, had 2 minor road accidents (though I was following rules) (It’s just that in India we don’t really follow the traffic signals but squeeze through traffic as we find open space),and was taken aback at the rude customer service at Airtel (the Indian equivalent of T-Mobile). (They weren’t rude. It’s just that Americans are so, so polite so the Indian customer service paled in comparison). But the worst is having to convince people why I didn’t try to find a job and stay longer in America – the golden land of opportunities. No one seems to get why I would go for “low-paying” fellowship for just “a year”
On the other hand, I talked to my dear friend Samita from Nepal. Here are her impressions: “I was prepared to come back to Nepal and experience major culture shock and here are a few instances when I felt this. – When I got in the front seat of the car and buckled up my seat belt, my uncle looked at me funny, because in Nepal no one really cares about seatbelts, or traffic rules. reverse culture shock 1! – Of course, the pollution! Everyone in Nepal wears a mask, I need to get one soon too! – Food, my family has had to make all the meals less spicy since I can’t take the normal spice level they are used to. – Role of woman in my society: unfortunately, I am reminded time and again by society and even my own family how women should or should not act. Living independently for so long, this has definitely been a great culture shock for me. – Lack of privacy: you are never alone, and that has been something I am trying to get used to. In many ways, for me this is more like culture shock, than reverse culture shock. These are all things I was warned about in our closing retreat. I look like I should know all the cultural rules, but I don’t. Coming back to Nepal to me has felt like meeting a long lost friend, we knew each other so well back then, and now, I have changed, and so has Nepal, yet at the same time we are both trying to reach for that friendship we had when we were younger. It’s there somewhere, we are just trying to get used to each other again.”
Last but not least, is my dear friend Wilson from Bolivia, who expressed this about his reverse cultural shock case “I don’t think I had a reverse cultural shock, I think what I felt is the reverse experience shock, as other fellows felt that many things are different from their countries, in my experience I felt that people are still very polite, and I felt the warm of my family and friends. What I realized is that I really got adapted to the environment in USA, to my job, my friends, and even thought I am very excited for this new chapter in my life which is to begin a new enterprise in my country. The first week was really hard, because I felt that something was missing and it was all that excitement and feelings from the fellowship, knowing new things and having new experiences that I lived and can’t be replaced. It is hard to readapt, but it is not about the culture, it is about the experience that left you this fellowship”.