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Korean-American Reverse Culture Shock: A Listicle

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?


And so it begins…


I’ve had a number of blogs and all of them failed. Either due to lack of interest, inspiration, or a clean layout, I never could seem to maintain a website. With The Rice Papers, this will change.

This site will serve as a place for general analysis, commentary, and reflection on both the issues of the day and on my personal experiences. I hope that I can bring a unique perspective to our world, one that is lacking from current discourse; a tall order indeed.  Of course, the site could easily shift away from the simple mission I provide today; it’s existence is tempered by my changing views, so I wouldn’t expect a lot of consistency with what/where/when/how content is posted.

Part of the catalyst for the Rice Papers is my upcoming study abroad. In fall 2011, I will be traveling to Beijing, China under the Pitzer in China program. With a little perseverance and know-how, this site can be one part of that experience.

So, in a manner quite similar to the past, it begins again. I’ll try to keep the content as diversified as possible, but you never know what you will get.

Thanks for making the site a part of your day. I hope this is just the beginning of a long journey we can be on together. If you have any comment, question, concern, or advice that can add to our conversation/the rice papers, please contact me.

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