Quick notes on reverse culture shock

This past weekend I went to New York City to visit friends and to go to the Indonesian Consulate to pick up my visa (success!). Serendipitously, I managed to meet up with two of my friends who had been living in China for the past year or two. I’d seen them both twice over the past couple of years, but it was nice to be able to sit down and talk about our experiences being back in the United States. I by no means am feeling major reverse culture shock, but there have been a lot of little things and it was comforting to hear my own feelings echoed.

1. Oops, that was rude.

We all had various cultural faux pas moments to bring up. Mine, for instance, had occurred while boarding the bus to New York City. As with every type of mass transit that I’ve experienced in the past two years, I executed the usual crowd as close to the door as possible routine. That was, at least, until I realized everyone else was making an orderly line, at which point I slunk backwards in shame.

2. Indonesia was just a dream.

Since getting back to the US, I’ve felt like Indonesia is sort of far away and unreal. I still see posts in Indonesian on Facebook and I still chat with my friends on occasion, but even then the whole thing is hard to conceptualize. Rochester is basically the same as it was when I left, which adds to the dreamlike quality. Picking up a job right away helped to make sure I got out of the house, but it’s also only further distanced Indonesia.

3. I used to be colorblind and I’m not anymore.

Obviously, the word colorblind and all its connotations are extremely problematic. However, before going to Indonesia I was colorblind compared to how I feel now. Now, I see race all the time. Any time I come upon a group of people, I instantly break the group down by race. How many white people are there? How many Asians? Usually, it’s a ton of white people and almost no Asians or anyone of any other race. That calculation remains in the back of my head no matter how long I spend with said group of people.

4. Tipping is difficult.

It doesn’t come naturally and it’s annoying to think about. Also, I give you this comic.


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