Traveling from Ometepe Island, Nicaragua and landing in Las Vegas, Nevada was surreal. We knew to expect a bizarre reverse culture shock which I can only describe like the scene out of a Crocodile Dundee movie. Yet, there is something to be said about embracing the shock when returning to a place that one used to call home.
Articles have been written about the effects of reverse culture shock and ways to combat the adverse effects. But, I am of the persuasion that it is better to embrace it, than fight it and below are my reasons why….
1. The euphoria of feeling out-of-place in your own culture.
Las Vegas is not a city that anyone feels “in place” in our culture. It is the land of excess, overwhelming choices, immigrants, and a city that never sleeps.
When I asked our taxi driver at the airport where he was from he said, “Guess. I will give you a hint. It is where coffee was first produced.”
I guessed correctly on the second try, which really impressed our taxi driver. “Ethiopia!”
I think I created a warm, fast-paced relationship with our Ethiopian taxi driver after that because for the rest of the ride, he told me all about his country, the family he left, and how proud he was that he could provide for them.
Returning home gives me another opportunity to embrace and respect the diverse culture in the U.S. There was no better way to start our journey than the euphoric feeling of being out-of-place in our home country.
2. A new far-out perspective.
Living abroad certainly gives me a different perspective of the world. It is a perspective of simplicity wrapped in slow-paced tranquility. But, we do yearn for high-quality entertainment sometimes. Watching the monkeys swing from branch to branch will never compete with Cirque de Soleil.
This time in Las Vegas we got front row seats at Love, the Beatles extravaganza performed by Cirque de Soleil. It did not disappoint! Now, we have seen all the Las Vegas Cirque de Soleil shows, and I continue to have a difficult time deciding which show is my favorite.
The most sensory overload we get on Ometepe Island is during the annual bullfight or a religious parade when the bombas explode. In Las Vegas we were bombarded with light shows, man-made dancing fountains, music blasting from the nightly Fremont Street Experience, slot machines dinging, the salty taste of Dirty Martinis at the Blackjack tables, and smells of grilled steak wafting through the streets. No sense was left untouched and we savored every minute of it.
We have limited choices on Ometepe Island for everything. We frequent the same restaurants, the same pulperias, the same parades…which can get monotonous at times. So, when we have an abundance of choices for entertainment, food, and restaurants…we go for it.
At first, it is a little overwhelming, but we relish the opportunity to explore all of our options and choices. And so many of our entertainment options in Las Vegas are free or cost very little.
We laughed a lot at the absurdity of Las Vegas. The active volcano. Concepcion, is in our backyard on Ometepe Island. Watching crowds awed by the eruption of a fake volcano tickled us. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to laugh at the craziness of a pseudo-world designed and manipulated for tourism.
When in Rome….indulge.
We ate our way through the City of Excess. On Ometepe Island we eat fresh fruit, homegrown veggies, and drink lots of smoothies depending on the season for our fruit.
We walk, swim, and sweat a lot!
So, the temptation for high-calorie junk food was not ignored. We ate greasy burgers, decadent sweets, and juicy steaks. We figured that if we got to the point where we couldn’t walk, we could always rent motorized wheel chairs. Las Vegas rents everything!
There is a time and place for moderation, and Las Vegas isn’t the place!
Las Vegas tricks and deceives you into thinking that you can make a lot of money for very little effort. It is the American Dream! Capitalism at its finest…hedonistic, extreme, and
just like the rest of the United States but more so. It strokes and caresses with insatiable and inexhaustible desire. The spectacle of wealth reinforces consumption, excess, and waste 24/7.
Whereas on Ometepe Island, our neighbors live in dirt floor shacks on less than $1,000 a year. They are shrewd bargainers and traders without an understanding of the deceptions of capitalism. Life is real without any pretenses!
But, who doesn’t want to escape into a fantasy land occasionally? A place where “normal” behavior is temporarily suspended…where one feels consequence-free… where there is an intensification of selfishness and greed to levels that would never be permitted outside extraordinary circumstances. After all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
We are calculated risk takers. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t live abroad. If Las Vegas showed me anything about embracing reverse cultural shock, it is that gambling on life can be fun and exciting!
The most important thing I learned from our trip to Las Vegas is that I have changed. I am no longer the person I once was. Living abroad has broadened my perspectives about life.
Reverse culture shock is real, but it doesn’t have to be depressing or fearful. In a way, any place that one adapts to becomes “home”. Embracing the changes in my home country enables me to see the United States through a sharper lens, both its strengths and its weaknesses. I realize that the United States is not always “right” or “best”. Yet, what country is?