Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock: Expectation vs. Reality

I've been home from Japan for more than a month, but I haven't had much time to process all that madness. I regret not writing more about the transition process, but it was such an intense, overwhelming time, and I couldn't bring myself to put it into words. I'm still not sure I can. However, I will attempt to verbalize the whole reverse culture shock experience so far, and how my expectations have met or clashed with the reality.


Expectation: Terror. I'd driven more in Japan than I ever had in the U.S. I expected to be constantly driving on the wrong side of the road, failing to yield, and getting tickets all over the place.

Reality: Not that bad. I've only had the urge to turn into the wrong lane a few times and quickly corrected myself, and I haven't had any close calls at all. Yay! I've driven a surprising amount, too. Instead of driving on the wrong side of the road, I often enter on the wrong side of the car. Haha I sit down and go, "Where's the steering wheel?!" It's ridiculous. I also turn the windshield wipers on when I mean to use the blinker. Of course.


Expectation: WAHOO! CHEESE! I'd missed a lot about food here, and every chance I got I'd be on base stocking up on the luxuries like coffee creamer, cereal, and--of course--cheese!! I knew I'd miss Japanese food, but I thought it'd take at least a few months of pigging out to get to that point.

Reality: Ugh. My stomach is upset more often than not, and I think the drastic diet change has a lot to do with it. There's just so much more fried food and dairy in my diet than there used to be, and I really need to keep an eye on my waistline... I would kill for my old farmer's market and a good kaitenzushi place. My brother's an amazing cook, though, with a really amazing mustache. So that's a plus!


Expectation: Yay, no humidity!! I love me some dry heat, and after sweating constantly for four years, I couldn't wait for an Idaho summer.

Reality:! All the time! I knew after adapting to Okinawa's weather that I'd be cold eventually, but I thought October at the earliest. Nope. I'm constantly cold. Even in August! Whenever I walk into a store with air conditioning, I start chattering away. Now that the weather has cooled down a little, I can't escape the shivering, even when it's sunny. And my wardrobe isn't exactly prepared for cooler temperatures, either. It's going to be a loooong winter.


Expectation: ALL THE CLOTHES! Gimme! I've never been much of a shopper, but when every store you go to carries only clothes that don't fit, or at best you are the largest size they carry, you start to long for a new item or two. Toward the end of my time in Japan, I was compulsively buying clothes, even if I didn't love them, simply because they FIT.

Reality: Shopping takes money... of which I have none. One of the great tragedies of my life is that when I had disposable income, I couldn't shop, and now that I can shop, I have no money. Ok it's not that tragic, but it does suck a little. Especially when winter is coming. *dread*


Expectation: Whatever it takes. I knew I wouldn't be able to stand being unemployed long, and I especially knew I wouldn't be able to afford it, so I completely prepared myself to take any jobs that came along. I was willing to scrub floors, wait tables, shovel horse manure, whatever it took to stay busy and pay the bills.

Reality: Subbing, ftw! So far subbing has kept me very busy, AND I love it! I get to work in my career field, gain experience in a variety of classroom settings, learn from the other teachers, and get to know the school in and out. So far, I've mainly been subbing in the elementary school, but am hoping for some high school days, too. :)  I've worked almost every day for a couple weeks, and if this keeps up, I might not need a second job! Although I am still looking for one just in case. Anyone need a nanny? House cleaner? Horse-poo-shoveler? ;)


Expectation: Easy communication with everyone! Hoorah! It's tough not being able to communicate fully with the people around you. It affects every aspect of your life, really, and I found it was often a hurdle to building relationships in Japan. I still made some great Japanese friends, mostly thanks to their amazing English skills, but it was always a bit of a struggle. I thought moving home would be such a relief on that front. 

Reality: Anyone out there? The hardest thing has been the change in my social life. This is certainly a small town, and there aren't many people my age with common interests. I miss having a pool of great friends to call on. For awhile there I felt extremely lonely, but it is getting better. A few old friends have sprung up and I'm gradually making new ones. Hopefully when I have extra cash I'll be able to spend more time in the "big city" and actually get out once in awhile. However, I do get to spend tons of quality with my family which I LOVE. :) It's so nice just to be able to walk up the road to Mom and Dad's house, help my cousins with their homework, give my nieces and nephews big hugs, give my grandparents a kiss goodnight. I am so lucky to be near them all again!

To sum up, returning home has been a bit of a mixed bag. I know it will continue to be a struggle and an adjustment, but I'm happy to be here, and I'm thrilled with the direction my life is going. I'm moving forward and growing, and that's really all I can ask for. Thanks for stopping by!