Reverse Culture Shock


“When you travel overseas, the locals see you as a foreigner, and when you return, you see the locals as foreigners.”
Robert Black

“Reverse culture shock is the emotional and psychological distress suffered by some people when they return home after a several years overseas. This can result in unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.”

I wouldn’t say I am distressed, but it certainly is different from life on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

You know you have reverse culture shock when…

1. There are an overwhelming number of choices

I am lost and bewildered when I enter a grocery store. Yesterday, I stood in front of the canned baked beans and cried…10 different types of baked beans? In Nicaragua, it was always fun to shop; I never knew what unexpected treasure hidden among the shelves I would find. Dill pickles, pretzels, and dark chocolate were treats. Now, with too many choices, it is more of a frustrating experience.

2. The leaves change color!

Oh how I love fall! In Nicaragua the leaves crumble and fall off the trees without changing colors. The gorgeous displays of the Maple leaves are eye-popping.

3. Everything is super sized.

Food portions…giant! The USA is the land of excess and extreme. No wonder obesity is rampant.


4. You can order anything online.

Our son orders food from Amazon Prime and it is delivered the same day. My iPad died and I had a new one sent to my house in two days. One click shopping can be dangerous, though.

5. You need a car.

Unless you live in a big city, you definitely need a car. A week after we returned to the states, we bought a car. Then, we high-tailed it out of the states to Canada. 5,000 miles later, we are back in the states and preparing to store our car in the garage so we can leave again.

6. There are dog parks and free plastic bags to pick up dog poo.

We always laugh when we see the doggie pot stations. Our Nicaraguan friends wouldn’t understand the need for these stations and the free plastic bags would be gone in seconds if this was in Nicaragua.

7. You can protest freely…( at least for the time being )


Nicaragua does not permit freedom of speech. Protests are now illegal and the people participating in protests have been shot, imprisoned, and foreign journalists have been deported for documenting the protests.

8. Everyone decorates for Halloween.

Although our house is rented to good friends, we still have a bedroom and can stay for as long as we want. I came home the other day to a graveyard in our back yard. Our renters love decorating for Halloween. This is so much fun to watch the ghoulish transformation of our house.

9. You can hear train whistles and watch the train pass by.

I missed the sound of the train whistle in Nicaragua. Now, I hear it every morning and evening as it passes through our quaint town.

10. There are hay bales stored for the cattle to eat over the winter.

It mystified me in Nicaragua why the farmers didn’t grow and store hay to feed the cattle during the dry season. Our next door neighbor grew zaycon, related to the sugarcane plant, to feed his cattle during the dry months. But, most of the farmers I knew simply let their cattle and horses roam the dusty roads in search of something to eat.

11. Everything is expensive!

This photo is self-explanatory. Before we moved to Nicaragua, we thought this was the size of a papaya. If you live in a tropical country, you know that papayas can grow to the size of a large watermelon.

12. Eggs and milk are in the refrigerated aisle.

13. There is no garbage on the streets and huge street cleaning machines sweep the streets daily.

14. The GPS on Google Maps identifies street addresses.

15. All the football games are broadcast in English. It still cracks me up when watching a Steeler game in Spanish. The broadcasters call the Steelers the banditos.

16. You rent a keyless car and can’t figure out how it starts.

17. You have to use a YouTube video to explain how the new handheld can openers work.

18. You do a speed test for your wifi and it registers at 60 mbps.

19. You have to get a prescription for antibiotics at the doctor’s office before buying antibiotics. I have a tooth infection and I have to go to the dentist today to get antibiotics. I am not looking forward to the cost. When we go to Colombia and Mexico I am going to stock up.

20. The school buses actually take children to school.

Do I feel like a foreigner in my home country? Yes! We have lived abroad too long to be able to return to the states and feel at home. I have the “been there…done that” attitude not only about returning to the states, but returning to Nicaragua as well. I guess it means it is time to move on.

Next stop…Colombia.

If you have returned to your home country, what reverse culture shock are you experiencing? 

 

18 thoughts on “Reverse Culture Shock

  1. $6 for one pitaya in Poughkeepsie, NY; about 60¢ in Guatemala! $1.49/lb for rock hard Poughkeepsie papaya/$1.50 total for a large papaya, and I peel it with an apple peeler and the rest is edible.
    But what really got me was $1.49 each aloe leaf! I could pay for my trip “home” if I could export all the aloe leaves in my yard on Lake Atitlan.
    Retirement at home is blocked by the reality that I can not afford car and insurance (never mind upkeep) on my $1,000/mo. social security. I’m dreaming that I could buy a scooter, but that won’t be practical in New England winters.
    So I guess I’ll suffer along on the lake and pick pitaya, avocados and mangos when they are in season.

  2. I’m in the US for 2 weeks, to see my wrist surgeon, pick up some things and visit with friends and family. Funny you should say that about medications: in Mexico I pay around $15-16 for a 40-pack of Tylenol 750. I just picked up a bottle of 225 caplets of 650 mg for about the same price. Since I’m still taking pain meds for my busted shoulder that makes a huge difference. I also picked up a 3-month supply of 3 prescription meds and paid zero, though I pay $19 a month for my Part D under Medicare. I’m loving all the choices in food, good supplements, and shopping, but actually wind up buying very little. But my life in a city of 500,000 people in Mexico is closer to a US lifestyle, as far as shopping goes, than your more rural existence was on Ometepe. So far I’ve stayed calm by watching zero TV! The hardest part has been feeling cold! I was so glad I brought jeans, socks, and a fleece-lined hoodie!

  3. VERY INTERESTING TO SAY THE LEAST , SOUNDS LIKE YOUR HAVING FUN!!! I JUST ARRIVED FROM PUERTO VALLARTA TO MY NEW ADVENTURE….AJIJIC ,,, AND WOW… THE WEATHER IS LOVELY HERE ,,,,NOT THE AMAZINGLY SUPER HOT MESS NOW IN P.V. WILL MISS PVS FAB STORES AND THE MODERN CINEMAS,,,AMAZING THERE ,,,, BUT TIME TO DECORATE A NEW HOUSE ,,, RENTED ONE FOR A YEAR AND MAY STAY LONGER ….. …WHO KNOWS … NOW OFF TO THE LAKE CHAPPALA SOCIETY, A VERY COOL PLACE IN AJIJIC WITH TONS TO DO AND LEARN,,,WILL CONTINUE MY LEVEL 2 ….MI ESPANOL CLASES,,,MUY DIFICIL ….BUT ….WHATEVER ….ITLL TAKE YEARS TO LEARN HOW TO SPEAK FLUENTLY BUT …POCO Y POCO ……!!!! ENJOY COLOMBIA … I LOVED BOGOTA, EVEN THO MOST PEOPLE DONT………

  4. I stilll remember my first trip to the grocery store after coming home from Liberia. I was standing in front of the meat counter when I said, “Everything’s covered in plastic!”

    • Haha! So true! Yesterday I bought bananas in the sale bin. They were all wrapped in plastic. It makes no sense to me! Then, when I checked out they put the bananas in a plastic bag. Ron bought a six pack of beer, and they put it in a plastic bag. I said, “We can just carry the six pack.” His response was, “Sorry, but that is against the law.” Geez!!

  5. Going to Colombia? I lived amost a year there, avoid the large cities! Check my presentations for the best places to visit!

    These are all small comunities where you will feel comfortable!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2snk1CExSs0 Darien – Lago Clima, Colombia
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj3Tnn_baiI Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85CRJ7rdbxs Guatape, Colombia
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bJ35sR9DJo Jardin, Colombia
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoyKcnz4xlg&feature=related Salento, Colombia
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2pODxYftEU Barichara, Colombia
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPIqdhuxR20 Curiti, Colombia
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQso5O8reis San Gil, Colombia
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4TFHSnGQys Valle de San Jose – Paramo, Colombia
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0vNF3GxdgY Charala, Colombia

    feliz viaje!

    • Oh my gosh! I forgot about the insane traffic and all the advertising. We live in a small town, but when we go to the larger city about 8 miles away, we noticed how busy it is. And don’t get me started about the robo calls on my cell phone. I get at least 4-7 a day. If they are unknown callers, I block them. But, that was a problem because Ron’s doctor kept trying to call, and he had to send messages to us in order to reach us.

  6. Hi Debbie
    Great job of describing life after living abroad. Linda and I experienced many of the things you described since returning to the states. One of the things not mentioned about life here is the seemingly endless drama over nothing. So many people with everything imaginable and wanting more.
    The people of Nicaragua taught us how to be happy and content with less, for this we will be forever grateful.

    • The drama!! It is like an endless novella. Sometimes I think our culture is too sensitive. It is difficult not to offend someone. I need a list to remember the appropriate names for different races, nationalities, and genders. They change so quickly.
      Another thing Nicaraguans taught me was that no one gets offended if you call them gorda or gordo. They are words of endearment. I miss that!

    • We went to the mall today. Years ago, I proudly stated that I hadn’t been to the mall in 15 years. Sears declared bankruptcy today. It made me sad. I still don’t like going to the mall, but they had some great 70% off deals at JC Penny and I bought some new summer shorts for $5.

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