Reverse Culture Shock

After completing my first three months in Spain I had a trip set up to visit family in the USA over Christmas vacation. I’ve been back for about 2 weeks now and have one more week to go before I endure the oh so joyous 24+ hour trip back to the island. I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming home as the last time I spent this long away from the states was almost 8 years ago. Although much time has passed since then, the emotions I felt coming home then and now still seem to be the same. The difference is, this time I’m not quite sure what to call my “home”. It has been an enjoyable time spending the holidays with my family thus far, but I have experienced quite a bit of reverse culture shock. This has come with a whole mixture of emotions. I can describe these emotions into a few different stages, many that are quite similar to that of culture shock when I first moved to Spain.

  1. The Sleepy Stage

With the combination of traveling for over 24 hours and a 9 hour time difference the first stage of reverse culture shock is definitely tiredness and confusion. I wasn’t able to stay up past 9 pm for the first week of being home and I woke up every morning at 2 or 3 am. Most mornings I was able to force myself back asleep at least until 5 or 6 am but then I was wide awake ready for the day. The other tough thing to get used to is hunger. I was hungry at the most strange times and never felt hungry enough to eat when my family took me out to dinner. (In Spanish time I would be sleeping)

2. The Honeymoon Stage

The honeymoon stage is one we experience while doing many things in our lives. Ever started a new job? new school? had a new relationship? Yup, it’s the beginning of anything we start where everything seems new and exciting. For me it was things like hot sauce, speaking english, driving and playing with my dog that played a huge roll in my honeymoon stage. The honeymoon phase lets us rediscover things that we love about our culture (or a new culture if you have moved abroad). Everything seems great and fun until…

3. The “Who am I” Stage

You’ve gone halfway around the world, speaking a new language, meeting new friends and traveling to beautiful places around Europe. Now you find yourself back in an all too familiar routine. The excitement of everything has faded and you might even start to find annoyances with things that once brought you joy. You’ve grown so much as a person and learned how to adapt to new experiences but you don’t quite know how to take that new personality and mold it back into your old culture.

4. The Nostalgia Stage

This part is a little bit easier to endure over winter break because you know at the end you get to go back and do it all over again. It isn’t as easy when you decide to come back home for good. You start to dream back to all the things you loved about your host country. The cheap wine? late outings? overly attractive police officers? There must be a pre-requisite for European police officers to be ridiculously good-looking because I’ve never wanted to be arrested “just cause” before in my life. This is also when things about your home country bother you the most. I’ve also felt INSANELY sedentary. I used to clock in around 20,000 steps a day in Spain just from having to walk everywhere, in the US I can hardly reach 10,000 some days.

5. The Acceptance Stage

Another stage very similar to that of when I moved to Spain. When experiencing something new it is so easy to compare it to what we used to have. What is always important to realize is that not one culture is better or worse than the other. Every culture is different and that’s what makes our world so beautiful to live in. It is crucial  to understand that EVERYONE has a different view of just about everything from one another and that’s what gives us diversity. If we all had the same culture and same views there would never be a point in traveling. The acceptance stage helps you view everything in a new perspective. All those small annoyances you once had don’t really seem all that bad after all. Sure, it takes loads of time to adjust even when you move to a new city/state/country/continent but the best thing to remember is that you’ll get there. …and now I just can’t wait to get back to exploring in Spain.

You just have to keep on keepin’ on. Stay curious and wander often.

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

Germania

Seven long and crazy years ago I was an exchange student in the small town of Cosenza, Italy with AFS Intercultural Programs. I was only 16 when I embarked on this journey where the only word I could understand was “ciao”. After about a month in, I started to have some troubles with my first host family. Still to this day I am not sure why but it was enough to make me want to pack and go back to California. Luckily, one of the program coordinators was able to take me in and house me for the remainder of my stay. I did and still do owe everything to her for allowing me to continue an incredible experience.

Now lets skip to the present. Ever since I knew I was coming to Spain I had begun to plan a trip to visit my Italian family. However they had moved from Cosenza, Italy to Stuttgart, Germany. So with a push of a button I had my tickets purchased and was on a plane to my first trip in Germany!

Stuttgart is a very wealthy city and exactly what I had expected when I thought of Germany. It reminded me the most of the USA from other countries I had been to before.  The cars and streets were bigger but primarily because there are two major automobile headquarters in Stuttgart, Mercedes and Porsche. While driving around town I noticed that almost every other car was one of those brands with a few VW’s mixed in.

The first night we went to a town called Ludwigsburg to see a small Christmas Market. Just about every city in Europe seems to have their own kind of Christmas Market and Germany has some of the best! We walked around the market and saw everything! There were all sorts of gifts, many delicious beverages and foods and loads of people. I’m not much of a muelled wine person or Gluwein as they call it but we did have our fair share of hot chocolate. We also got to try some fried potatoes with a sort of sour-y yogurt sauce and a kind of german sauce that was 1/2 a meter long! It was VERY cold though this evening as we had come from Palma which was about 65 degrees and going to a 30 degree Germany.

The next day we took our time waking up and enjoying any time in the warm home that we could! Anna and Giuseppe made a fantastic breakfast for us with avocado toast, eggs and all sorts of fruits and cereal! We then got bundled up again to head out into the downtown Stuttgart and another Christmas Market. This one was quite a bit bigger than the last. We went to one booth and made our own candles which was pretty fun even if we were the only ones over 10! We also got to try some local egg pasta and potato patties (unsure of the name in German) which filled us up quite well! Germans do seem to love their cheese and potatoes. We walked around quite a bit and got to see the main square of Stuttgart.

After the markets Anna and Giuseppe took us to a nearby park with a tower that you could climb to see lots of Stuttgart. Boy was it beautiful with the light dusting of snow! After freezing our toes off we went back to their house and Anna prepared us a wonderful Italian style pizza… mamma mia!

On our last day in Stuttgart we woke up to…. SNOW! Which of course is always more fun to watch from inside than it is to be stuck in it outside… So we waited a little bit to head out and watched a few Christmas movies enjoying the view.

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After the snowing had subsided a bit we went to another town called Kornwestheim where there was a medieval Christmas market. This was a pretty cool market in which everything was themed! All the store owners were dressed up and you felt transported to the 10th century! We found some great food as well including a bread that was served on a stick, more hot chocolate and this pastry that was filled with cheese and some pancetta! The names are beyond me because German isn’t the easiest language to read… but good nonetheless!

Germany is definitely a country I would like to visit again, I felt like one of the Germans since they were all so tall! It was great to finally see Anna after so many years, it still feels like just yesterday! Words cannot describe how happy I am to have finally visited.

 

auf wiedersehen!