Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

My brother came home from China a couple of weeks ago. It's been interesting to see how he's been dealing with being back. He was in China for two years. He came back for about six weeks last summer and didn't seem to really have any major issues with returning to the states. I think this second year he got a lot more into the culture and Chinese life though, because it's been interesting having him back.

I had a really rough time when I first came back from my exchange year in Russia. I felt extremely strange, it felt like no one understood my thoughts, feelings or views. There were things here that just didn't make sense because I was used to the Russian way of doing them. It was weird. And it's been very interesting seeing reverse culture shock from this side.

It started when we went to Dollar General. My brother started completely freaking out in the grocery aisles. I asked him why. He explained it was because a lot of the American food they were selling was hard to come by in China, or they didn't have it at all and so to be faced with it all at once and having it be so cheap was a little overwhelming. I understood. My city in Russia never had a variety of brand or varieties of a product at once. When I came back from the states, the amount of variety we have here was rather unsettling.

My brother also found it weird that he could understand everything everyone was saying. While he is not fluent in Chinese, he was exposed to it every day and gained a decent amount of survival Chinese. He was used to being able to just kind of ignore what everyone around him was saying and think about other things. Here, he finds understanding everyone to be distracting.

He also laughs because "Everyone here has an accent." Meaning he is very attuned to the patterns in which people speak. I can definitely feel him on this one. When I came back from Russia, it was weird to hear all that english. I remember my parents were watching Good Eats on the Food Network when I came in the room. I stopped, listening to Alton Brown. After a moment I was like "I have to leave." My parents asked why and I explained that Alton Brown talks funny and it was driving me nuts.

There are other things too, such as his random fits of the giggles during worship services. I've mentioned this before but other countries don't take Christianity for granted like we do. As my brother put it, "Christianity is America's folk religion." Meaning that a lot of people are "Christian" because that's what we do here.

Anyway, those are just a few interesting examples of how my brother is adjusting back to life in the states. He asks me things like how long it will last, or mentions things that bother him. I just nod and tell him I understand. Other than that I don't know what to do. Talking about it with people who've been there helps. Aside from that, you just kind of have to work through it.

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