Reverse Culture Shock

japan new zealand
Having come back from Japan after 4 years and giving myself a couple of weeks to settle back down in New Zealand (if only temporarily), I finally get what everyone else was on about when they talked of reverse culture shock. It’s hard, perhaps even impossible, to emotionally prepare yourself for something that you’ve yet to experience, so no matter how much I tried to tell myself that I’d feel these things, actually feeling them is another matter entirely.

It’s not all bad, mind you. Some of it is even quite funny, albeit in a way that sometimes makes me want to laugh a little hysterically. Being the trendy young thing that I am, I decided to try and express a few of these instances in gif form.

#1 It’s cold. It’s really, really cold. I never thought I’d miss cleavage sweat, but…

winter is coming
#2 There’s no genkan, where in the hell are people supposed to put their shoes.

#3 Everyone insists I lock the door when I leave the house and nobody else is home, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Funny, I thought you were only supposed to lock the door when you were actually home – you know, in case the postman opened the door to deliver a package or something and you weren’t out of your pyjamas yet. Anything else was for the chronically paranoid.

lock the doors
#4 I don’t actually need to buy anything, but I’m compelled to go to the ATM to put some money in my wallet anyway. It just feels too weird walking around with only cards.

cash money
#5 But now that I’ve got cash I may as well have a nosy around the supermarket. After all, I’ve been really looking forward to decent cheese and hundreds of varieties of cereal and- WAIT WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE’S NO ONIGIRI.

#6 Every single shop I walk into features a very smiley someone saying hey, how’s it going, nice day for it isn’t it? I seem to have forgotten how to respond to casual chit-chat from store clerks and now it’s super awkward.

awkward small talk
#7 So… where am I supposed to put my money again? There’s no tray on the shop counter. This is uncanny valley territory right here.

#8 All my awkward attempts at small talk have made me thirsty so think I’ll just head over to the nearest vending machine and- hmm, for some reason that’s ages away. Also, it doesn’t have any beer. Now that’s just plain weird.

#9 Never mind, I’ll go visit a cafe instead. I can get parfaits without cornflakes in them now so why not celebrate that. But holy crap all this food seems disproportionately large, how do people even manage to eat so much in one sitting?

big food
#10 Now I’m looking around and everyone is sporting sunglasses and tattoos and OH DEAR GOD THE YAKUZA HAVE FINALLY TAKEN OVER. (And here I thought my own tattoos made me a special snowflake.)

tattoos
Question of the post:
Ever experienced a dose of reverse culture shock, with regards to Japan or any other country? If so, what was the funniest/weirdest/most memorable thing about it?

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22 thoughts on “Reverse Culture Shock

    • Haha, now there’s an idea.

      Glad you enjoyed the read. I intentionally went for a more jokey and light-hearted tone for this one, but the struggle is real.

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  1. Number 6 is by far my favorite, giggle snorted at that one~~ Had that happen to me too first time back from Japan, “Oh wait, you mean I have to socially engage with you? No~”

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    • Right? I think that’s the thing that’s been throwing me the most. In many ways Japan struck me as quite a ‘mind your own business’ kind of a country where people were too busy, too polite, or too shy to just casually chat – especially from staff to customers.

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      • Yeah I know exactly what you mean. I’ve also been perplexed even with food shops where you order from that machine outside the restaurant and then just hand over the ticket. A friend of mine once said, “Anything to diminish human interaction in Japan!” I thought it was more a joke at the time but now… Haha~

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  2. Yup I’ve experienced it too, coming back to Auckland after 8 months living in mid-city Sydney. Auckland was so like *third-world!*, with bizarre old rusting-roofed sagging flimsy houses made of sticks instead of bricks, everything was so spread out and so much wasted land and like TREES everywhere (so much like my first impressions landing in Lae). And there were no decent fast-food places anywhere with fabulous Italian/Greek/Lebanese food, and service was positively *surly*, &WHERE WAS THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT?
    I just hated it! Wanted to go back to Sydney (which I used to hate).

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    • I admit, there are plenty of things I miss about life in Japan, public transport included. Not that I hate being back in New Zealand though, which is what I was probably most afraid of about moving back.

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  3. Hahah I was going to write a blogpost about this same topic, with my own experience. Yes, sadly I have experienced it myself as well. Especially the weather (I’m going from cold to warm weather)….why is it sooo hot? hahah

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  4. When I was a teenager back in the ’80s, my family and I lived in Panama for about 3 years. I learned to speak a good amount of Spanish during that time. When we went back to the states one time, it was middle of February- read deep winter. We were used to wearing short sleeved shirts and shorts and we were also well tanned from going to the beach so much. I remember we went to a shopping mall somewhere in Ohio and most of the other people there were white people and they had all lost their summertime tans if they had any. They obviously weren’t used to having brown skinned people around. They’d make wide swaths around us and gather their children near them so that they wouldn’t get too close to us. I can say now that I have had a taste of what minorities experience on a daily basis. Ever since, I’ve made an attempt to be conscious of my own subtle behavior.

    Like you, I had gotten used to that hot tropical weather and I miss the abundance of fruit all year long. There were fruit trees all over the place and there was almost always something to pick. My absolute favorite was genips also called mamoncillo in other parts of the Caribbean. We’d climb way up in the genip tree and gorge ourselves silly. I don’t miss the bugs. Winter is nice if for no other reason than you get a break from the bugs!

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    • I wholeheartedly agree with not missing the bugs! I don’t mind hot weather in the slightest and despise winter, but man oh man did the bugs in Japan give me a hard time. One of the best things about being in a different country (again) now was the fact that I no longer have to be on the constant lookout for mukade. Seriously, I developed a whole new phobia thanks to those things.

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  5. Enjoyed your post! I also lived in Japan and can really relate to the small-talk with shop assistants etc. When I went back to the UK I didn´t know if I was talking too much or not enough because I couldn´t remember what I used to do in those situations. The level of noise in restaurants, on public transport etc. was also a shock when I went back home. We are so noisy compared to the Japanese!

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    • I agree, Western countries in general seem a lot noisier in comparison to Japan! I had headaches the first couple of days back in New Zealand, and couldn’t work out if they were because of jet lag or because of the noise.

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  6. Interesting and well written, but also a bit alarming as I’m living in Japan for almost 4 years now too;-). I wish you good acclimatization back in the West. Cheers from Japan.

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    • Well, I’m sure it hits everyone in different ways – and not all of it’s bad. 🙂
      I’m actually not in the West now though, I’m currently living in Thailand until March, and then it’ll probably be off back to Japan again.

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