When heading abroad, you are inevitably warned of the coming culture shock. However, I’ve found the reverse culture shock of returning “home” far more difficult than that of when I first arrived in Korea.
Here’s 13 things I’ve noticed, some good, some bad and some whatever, since I’ve been back:
1. Portions are really big. Which would be OK, except that most of the food in America is, compared to Asian food, a) flavorless and b) unhealthy.
2. There is so much diversity. It literally makes me want to cry tears of joy. Walking around Washington, DC and seeing people who speak different languages and look different from another all in one glorious city is a beautiful thing. The diverse cultures and experiences of America are truly one of its most important assets.
3. Craft Beer. ‘Nuff said.
4. I still have the instinctive urge to bow when I meet new people and take off my shoes when I go inside. I make a great houseguest.
5. On the subway, I am shocked when I can actually understand people’s conversations. It’s nice to be blissfully unaware of what people are talking about because you can’t speak their language.
6. Public transportation is expensive and extremely sub-par. I really knew I was back in DC when the Metrorail operator started screaming over the microphone for people to move away from the doors so they would close—perhaps we need a more effective system.
7. On that topic, busses. $40 for a four-hour one-way trip from DC to NYC? Really!?
8. In the office, people make jokes and interact beyond their age/position in the hierarchy. What.
9. Skype calls are so much clearer when compared to Korea. It sounds like the person on the other end is right next to me.
10. Most people don’t really go out late on work nights. What’s a guy to do?
11. Everything is oh-so-expensive. Especially things that shouldn’t be. Value is relative.
12. Apple Products. Everywhere. Speaking of: Apple Watch, anyone?
13. Stall doors in bathrooms leave about six-inches or so between the bottom of the door and the floor. This is compared to Korean stalls and doors, which go all the way down to the floor. Infinitely more private in Korea.
14. American supermarkets are huge and have a ton of variety. While Korean supermarkets (here’s looking at you, HomePlus) are also big, sometimes an entire aisle would be dedicated to one kind of product. Who could ever forget the instant ramen or instant coffee aisles?
This list is pretty Korea-centric. For those of you who’ve left your home country and returned, what were the things you found interesting or strange while experiencing reverse culture shock? Did you experience it at all?
Today was my last day of teaching as a Fulbright ETA and at Gakri Middle School. I feel so grateful for this experience–trying to process the end of this chapter and the beginning of the next. Thank you, Ochang. Thank you Korea. Most of all, thank you students. You’re kind, enthusiastic, and unforgettable.
While the Fulbright Korea ETA Orientation back in July was certainly hectic and stressful, one of the opportunities that the Orientation team offered new ETAs was the chance to work on the Fulbright Korea Infusion. Infusion, the Korean-American Educational Commission’s (Fulbright Commission in Korea) official publication, is a collaborative magazine of literature, analysis, and art from current and past Fulbright grantees. It’s something unique to Korea’s Fulbright program, as a staff of dedicated ETAs works to cull through and produce a quality publication highlighting the experiences of grantees. It’s also been one of my primary extracurricular activities this year, as I have been privileged to serve as a staff editor for the magazine.
While the magazine is definitely not representative of everyone in Fulbright, it does paint a picture in words and images of what life is like for some grantees during their time here. From inspired poems to beautiful photographs, Infusion documents just a little bit about life through the lens of a grantee here. As a staff editor, I was extremely pleased that one of the pieces that I helped edit (“The Korea Question”) made the Management’s final cut and into the magazine.
While others and I blog frequently about our time on Fulbright, I definitely recommend checking out the Infusion for a curated selection of experiences and reflections, as they are well worth your time. Not to mention, there’s an awesome city guide for those of you that might visit or already be in Korea.
The Infusion publishes in print two times each year. You can check out the latest issue of the Infusion here: http://infusion.fulbright.or.kr. Also, be sure to like the Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/FulbrightKoreaInfusion. Infusion posts exclusive web-content, photos from current ETAs, and selections from across the Internet throughout the week on the page.
P.S. Have you signed the #SaveFulbright petition yet? Remember, $30 million in funding for the Fulbright Program is on the line. Please, sign now: www.SaveFulbright.org and tell your friends using the #SaveFulbright hashtag. Congressional deliberations start April 4th!