Reverse Culture Shock

I officially left Ecuador 1 month ago to the day. Thus began the process of re-acclimating to the culture of which I once was. I can’t say I’m quite there yet.

Here are some things that have struck me as odd about my own culture since I’ve been back. These definitely aren’t all of them but I need to keep you all interested now that I’m no longer in a foreign country, right? I’ll give you the first three that come to mind for now.

  1. English. I walked off the plane into the Miami airport and my first reaction was, “What are all these gringos doing here?” There was this buzz of English conversation and I was like,  After  training in California, I was walking around San Fran with another fellow and I could have sworn he said something but when I turned to look, it had  een a stranger speaking with someone else.  I had just associated English with people I knew, as the only other people who spoke it were other fellows. It was very stranger hearing it everywhere. Oh and hearing children. Every time I heard a child speaking English, I did a double take. My work in Ecuador was primarily with kids and the most English they spoke was, “Good morning, Teacher!” My neighbors came over the first week I was back. They have a little girl and several times I caught myself saying something to her in Spanish.
  2. Dogs. The minute I came in the door, my dog was all over me, jumping and licking. He knows how to sit. Knows how to lie down. Almost knows how to play fetch. He’d never bite you, unless on accident. In Ecuador, the dogs are not treated well and as a result, are not trusting or kind to humans. And if there are house dogs, they’re mostly for security. No one is hesitant to give them a good kick. In my experience, people didn’t really know how to train them either. If the dog didn’t do what they wanted, they kicked it. The concept of positive reinforcement was not understood. You just act like you’re going for a stone and they run. But dogs could be mean, especially in a group. There was this one path through Paragachi, the town I worked in, that I did not go on. Because one time I went through there and was confronted by a pack of dogs. I immediately turned around and started slowly walking away but was followed and one of them had the nuts to bite me. It didn’t draw blood but I didn’t use the path after that.
  3. Conversations are so 2012. People do not like to interact. Eye contact is shied away from. Good mornings are ignored between strangers. You’re pulling someone’s teeth just asking how they’re doing. I tried to start a conversation in a grocery store the other day and got this look, In my town, if someone said buenas dias, tardes, or noches to you and you don’t respond, you’re being rude. People like being acknowledged, so why don’t we do it? I feel sad when I say hi to someone and they just strut on by without even looking at me. And who wouldn’t feel that way? At the same time, our culture admires people who break those boundaries. People like talking to each other! And if someone has the nerve to chat up a stranger or start a conversation in an elevator, they’re admired. It’s just that the average Joe won’t go there.
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  1. andy

     /  May 14, 2013

    Welcome back, Sarah! I am happy to hear that you see our culture through a new lens and will wait (eagerly!) for the next installment of your observations. Thanks for taking the time to keep us in the loop. After all, your journey is not finished. In fact, it may never be truly finished so might just need to keep writing down your observations indefinitely! 🙂 —uncle andy

  2. Paul Scott McMillan

     /  May 14, 2013

    Not surprised by by reverse culture shock, I was waiting to see what it felt like. Will be in NC next week and hope to give you an American hug.
    Terri & Paul Scott


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