The Reverse Culture-Shock

Statue in Cartagena

Statue in Cartagena

Where’s all the music? All the Champeta, all the Reggaeton? Where are all the people sitting in their plastic chairs along the road? Where are all the street vendors selling anything from fake-ass-panties to mandarine-juice? Where’s the honking of taxis, motorbikes or cars to announce they’re about to make a turn and they’re coming now? Where are all the chatty taxidrivers asking me where I’m from and making sure I’m welcomed in Colombia? Where’s all the trash on the side of the streets, in the desert, between trees? Where’s the heat? Where are all the ACs and ceiling fans? Where are the mosquitos and sand flies? Where’s ciclovia? Oh and look, I’m not the only woman in her twenties with short hair anymore! And dammmmn, I really don’t want to wear socks and closed shoes again. Long live my Flip Flops.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s not that everything overthere is much better than overhere – most definitely not better overthere is the garbage situation. But having to wear socks and closed shoes again – yes that is a bummer.

I suppose every traveller who has been away for several weeks, months, even years knows the feeling of a reverse culture-shock. You’re home again and you start noticing a few major and minor differences – with or without immediate judgement. Once you’re back home it can easily happen that you start romanticizing about all the good things you’ve seen and the great things you had while travelling, you start to miss them and hence you start to dislike things at home. Of course, it could also be the other way and you start to realize your life at home isn’t so terrible after all.

Foto 04.01.14 00 15 34And so, with the no-more-tourist-perspective I noticed a few differences myself while trying to adjust (back) to „normal life“. Whatever „normal life“ means. For example, I noticed a different pace – not only around me, but also in myself. I finally took things more slowly, like riding my (beloved) bicyle around town in a dutch-bike appropriate pace – you may have seen me cruising instead of speeding to catch every green traffic light. That way I discovered buildings/shops/trees/etc. I had not seen before or thought I had not seen before. (Actually this happens to me every time I visit my home town and I ask myself:) Was this here when I left/last time?

So in short: the reverse culture-shock makes you slow down, pause and contemplate about a specific discovery. It’s a precious condition a traveller should not sacrifice too soon for reality. I personally enjoy all these magic moments as a…let’s call it „home-again-tourist“ when I go: „Wait a second!“

To be honest: I think I got lucky with my reverse culture-shock. Spring said hello for a few days, honoring us with several hours of sun every day, mild 20°C and making everyone smile. Had it been raining instead, I think I might have said something like: „It used to be very sunny almost every day of my trip“ of course without the intention to piss of everyone, but probably risking to piss of everyone around me. Especially because everyone had probably pointed out my insane tan – which I believe used to be even more insane after just two weeks surfing in Porugal.

But that brings us to another quite interesting aspect of the reverse culture-shock: What do people notice first, when you’re back? Your tan? Your weight? Your beard (if you’re guy), your wrinkles, your style, your smile, your choice of words, your whatever…? In my case and after this trip: 97 percent of all the people I met again within the first ten days of me being home commented on my tan. 90 percent of them did before saying „good to see you again“ or „how was your trip?“. But of course 100 percent eventually asked the question of questions: „How was your trip?“ and just now, while writing about the reverse culture-shock I know the answer: I feel like my trip isn’t over yet.

On my way to Tubing in Palomino (sitting on the back of a motorbike, only wearing a bikini, a sarong and flip flops. On my left shoulder my tube, on my right hand my camera and between the rider and me: a plastic bag with drinks and snacks)

On my way to Tubing in Palomino (sitting on the back of a motorbike, only wearing a bikini, a sarong and flip flops. On my left shoulder my tube, on my right hand my camera and between the rider and me: a plastic bag with drinks and snacks)

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