Monday, March 24, 2014

Reverse Culture Shock

During the past year in Sweden, I first heard of the term "reverse culture shock". Its what happens when you move back home after a significant amount of time in a new culture. Where suddenly, things that became every day and the normal are, well, no longer the normal.

I never thought I would experience it, because I just figured I was so used to American culture that I wouldn't really, truly adapt to the things about Sweden that I found "different" or "weird." And yet, here I am experiencing it.

Like today, when Nick and I went grocery shopping. It started when we left the condo, and I realized I didn't have to grab our reusable bags (yes, I know I still should have, but lets ignore that for a minute). And then at the store, when we were checking out, our total was $120 (or 770SEK). When we were checking out, I was fully expecting this total to be at least $250 (1606SEK). Not only that, but our cashier bagged the groceries for us! So, this completely normal grocery shopping experience was suddenly abnormal for us.

Then after that, when we went out to brunch and I ordered a mimosa. Firstly, customer service- weird to get used to it again! And then, when I was being carded for my mimosa and realized I didn't have to point out where the date on my ID is (because of course the waitress has seen a Minnesota ID before!)

Reverse culture shock is also about realizing things that might actually be better about the place you just returned from. For example, I'm now so used to using reusable bags that its strange not to have to do that. And I think its actually the right way to do things- if everywhere charged you about $0.15 for a plastic bag, I'm certain more people would use reusable bags, which is a great benefit for the environment.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was still in Sweden, I had to go to the hospital (just for a routine appointment!) and there was absolutely no wait. On the other hand, anytime you go to the grocery store, restaurant, pretty much anywhere else- you are greeted with at least a 15 minute wait in line. The more I have thought about this, the more (in a way) that actually makes sense- you shouldn't have to wait at the hospital, because thats probably more important than picking up a few groceries. But at the same time, I don't want to spend my time in line at the grocery store every single time- I go there much more than I do the doctors or hospital!

Reverse culture shock  to me is all about appreciating the good things from anywhere you have lived. Just because something is different, doesn't necessarily mean its wrong- just different.

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