Experiencing Reverse Culture Shock
I have been living in Korea for one year and three months and this month, I went home for the first time. My Korean coworkers sent me off by asking me to hurry back, clearly worried that I would leave for New York and never return. My family and friends, on the other hand, had been worried for months that I would never come back home. Both needn’t worry. I’ve come home (at least for Christmas vacation) and don’t worry people of Korea; I’m definitely coming back.
Before I left on my first journey back to America, my coworker Lish, a fellow American teacher asked me to write a post about coming home and dealing with reverse culture shock. So here are some thoughts about returning to America, even if only for a little while:
There’s so much English.
One of the first things I did when I got to America was go to an Italian restaurant with my family and my best friend. While most Americans would walk in and be completely unsurprised by the friendly server who waited on us, I was in awe of him.
“There’s so much English here! The menu’s in English and I can understand everything he’s saying. It’s amazing!” I said.
“You’re in America, genius. Of course he’s speaking English,” my sister answered before helping herself to more bread.
“I mean, like, we can have a conversation with him…” I started.
“America. We’re in America, Kylie,” my sister said through her mouthful of bread.
I know it sounds silly to be surprised by English, but still it’s weird. I haven’t had a real conversation with a waiter in ages that didn’t revolve around what I ordered and apologizing for not knowing much Korean. It’s strange to be so easily understood all of a sudden.
There are tiny spoons.
For some reason, this is the most surprising thing to me about returning home. In Korea, spoons are as long as chopsticks, generally speaking. So while spoons in Korea are as long as my forearm, American spoons are only the length of my hand.
I don’t know why, but these smaller spoons are throwing me off. I’ve brought it up so many times, my mother now yells at me every time I mention it. “Enough with the spoons already! We get it! They’re small!” I don’t care; I’m still surprised by it.
There’s tons of delicious cheese.
There are few things in life that I love more than cheese, and cheese in Korea, unfortunately, leaves something to be desired. Is it irksome at times? Sure, but thankfully I love Korean food enough that I haven’t completely broken down and cried every time I’ve entered a supermarket. But at the same time, I’ve really missed good cheese. I think I ate 10 slices of cheddar cheese my first morning back home. I’d do it again. I regret nothing.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve never left.
As I sat on the plane back to America, I was a little worried what it would be like to see everyone again. Teaching in Korea has been my first full time job out of college. I’ve changed and learned tons since leaving school, and my friends and family have too, so what would it be like to see them again after so long? I mean, they’d still love me right? Right? Okay, they do. Thank goodness.
I’ve missed everyone so much, but in some ways it feels like I never left. Being together after all those months hasn’t felt awkward or forced. It feels like we just hung out yesterday.
A huge reason I’ve felt so comfortable staying in Korea was because I knew there were people back home supporting me. Even if I felt homesick, seeing cards and letters from my friends and family made me feel better. Seeing them now reminds me how much I missed them, but also encourages me because even if I leave for a while, I know we’ll still see each other again and joke like we used to. That’s been the best part about being home. That and maybe the cheese… okay, definitely the cheese.