American Culture Shock

What is it really like returning to our familiar America after living and experiencing life, and needing to find our own familiarity within a different ‘exotic’ place?

I can relate to this video quite a bit.

Although I will admit that where I am living now, in Germany Western Europe, life doesn’t seem all that different. It is only when we (myself or my husband) are confronted with language barrier/lost in translation errors or situations, or when something bureaucratically is drastically different then what we are used to in Oregon.

What I have always found interesting about my travels, initially through Western Europe and Great Britain, then Australia and South Korea was that, hands down I always felt reverse culture shock upon returning home. It didn’t matter if I was away for five weeks, or seven months…it always felt a little weird to come home. I think part of this was because I never really knew a whole lot about where I was going, just that I wanted to go there and maybe knew of two or three concrete things about the people, culture or place that I was traveling to. I always went out of my way to learn as much as I could about the language, culture and people once I arrived however, as I figured that would have more of a lasting impact on me and reduce the stereotypes and generalizations I would make about a place and its people.

I stumbled upon this video by just typing “American Culture” into Youtube. I was pretty happy with the results of my gamble. Chris Hubbard had an idea and went to Kickstarter to make it happen. He decided to create a documentary about culture shock and as of June 13, 2012 he reached his funding goal by 103%, donors having pledge $3,627. I can’t wait to find it and watch it!!

As the author and creator Chris Hubbard states on the video‘s YouTube page:

Imagine living abroad for years, then suddenly deciding to return home. Would you experience reverse culture shock? Would your relationships with friends and family have changed? Would personal changes brought on by living abroad have an impact on your perceptions of a place that used to be so familiar? Would you still feel….. like that place was your home?

American Culture Shock tells this story.

Leaving America to travel and live in Asia has been a monumental journey. Many people have experienced it and understand the impact in can have on the way you think. It effects the way you communicate your personality, and the way you perceive things around you, including your past.

I experienced culture shock when I arrived in Asia. And wrote about it on myblog. Now I’m curious about the culture shock I may have upon my return to America. How do culture shock and reverse culture shock compare? My goal is to film this experience and share it with you.
This story will be told through a series of interviews with friends from both The Republic of China ( Taiwan ) and America. Family, co-workers and travellers who have all had some experience with both leaving their homes and dealing with culture shock. I’m interested in discussing the issue of America, living abroad and culture shock not only through my eyes but through those around me as well.

The costs for creating this film are fairly low since I will not be using high-end professional equipment, and will be doing a lot of the filming myself.

The main costs are in transportation, and equipment which include use of a camera, audio equipment and some lighting. Transportation of gear to and from The Republic of China and around Wisconsin, illinois and Michigan where filming will take place.

Later I will do my own editing and production with Adobe Premier and After Effects. The Finished project will be made available on a variety of sites of course. The project filming will take place between June and July in The Republic of China, and August in the United States.

My goal with this project is to examine what it’s like to return to American after adjusting and in some ways assimilating to an Asian lifestyle. I want to delve into and share with you the complexities of reverse culture shock on a day to day basis and what that may feel like both for me and those around me. How will returning to the U.S. be? Will I be able to adjust back to American lifestyle within 3 weeks? Will I be excited to return to Asia after? Will leaving to go back to Asia for a second time compare to the first or will it feel like I am going home after a trip abroad?

As Hubbard describes a eighteen-year-old friend who spent a year studying abroad in Japan who became depressed upon his return to the USA, I can surely relate to that. As well as the idea that this friend seemed to light up with vibrant electricity whenever he would talk about his experiences in Japan, but otherwise seemed to become somewhat dulled or bored by American things that were otherwise normal before he left. Hubbard also describes how, when listening to this friend he was always happy and even excited for his friend, but at the time felt he was simply listening to someone recap a really great movie that he had yet to see and that perhaps for the time being, that movie wasn’t really for him.

Traveling internationally can be a frightening and BIG decision. Leaving everything you know and that is familiar, even just for a few weeks. It is a big step, both physically and emotionally. It can take its toll if you aren’t ready – or even if you think you are, international travel, especially extended international travel (or living) can wear on a person in very unexpected ways! It can also open a person up to insights into the personal condition and just how very similar (or not) that we all are no matter where we are living on this green earth.

I have a minor facination with Asia ever since I spent five weeks in (mainly rural) South Korea. I have to admit it was just a long enough period for me to fall in love, in spite of the monsoon season, wet hot weather. It was long enough for me no to be naive about the country or its culture, but it really made me want to explore it that much more. My husband had other ideas however. Basically he said absolutely and unequivocally “No!” every time I suggested we move to South Korea to teach for a year or two in order to save money for our future life while living in a new culture/place at the same time. So, here we are, fully by chance in Germany.

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