A less than triumphant homecoming.

7 May

It turns out that reverse culture shock is a very real thing.

This will probably come as no surprise to many seasoned travellers, but it was a surprise to me. I didn’t really feel culture shock hit me when I moved to Korea. Things were obviously very different and I was constantly dealing with that, but I was expecting that to be the case, so I didn’t really worry when I experienced the frustration that sometimes comes along with trying to settle into a new country. I assumed, however, that returning to the UK would be easy. Everything would be familiar. Everything would work for me. I would understand it all.

Picture the scene: I’ve been back in the UK for a few days, a few days of chronic jet lag adding a layer of fog over everything. I can’t function. I’m lethargic. I can’t concentrate. I decide to go to the supermarket. Morrisons is full of people shopping, people who aren’t Korean, who are all speaking English, but aren’t talking to me. I can understand everything being said around me, I can read every sign, I recognise every product. I stand in the biscuit aisle staring down five or six shelves of biscuit options. There’s so much choice. It’s completely overwhelming. My brain is not only jet lagged, it’s forgotten how to filter information. For a year I learned to hone in like a hawk on English signage, on English words on products, on English being spoken around me. Now my brain is trying to consume EVERYTHING.

Yes, I basically had a breakdown in Morrisons. Over biscuits. Never fear though, dear reader; I eventually managed to buy Jaffa Cakes and booze and went home to hide and recover.

I’ve now been in the UK for just over a month. I’ve mostly stopped bowing and handing over my debit card with both hands instead of shoving it in the chip and pin reader. I’ve almost purged all the Americanisms from my vocabulary. I still look around when I hear people speaking English until I remember they really aren’t talking to me.

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3 Responses to “A less than triumphant homecoming.”

  1. Jim 08/05/2013 at 1:19 am #

    Yup. Been there. Have trouble in social situations too where I’m just fascinated that I know what’s going on and forget to contribute. Although booze usually fixes that.

  2. Keir Thomas 08/05/2013 at 8:43 am #

    The first thing Em & I noticed when we returned last time, was that everyone was fat and dressed REALLY badly. I also think I’ll end up bowing slightly forever.

  3. John 03/06/2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Had fun reading your blog! I stumbled upon it while reading up on Busan, which I visited while in Korea last month. I’m a Korean born and raised in the US, but could relate to many of your experiences as it was my first time visiting Korea since youth. Thanks for sharing!

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