Hi, I'm Megan. I am a writer, a photographer and an international public health professional. After a year-long research project in Indonesia, I'm back in my hometown, Chicago. It's great to see white snow again, but I miss the fresh coconuts that machete-slinging street vendors would chop open and sell to me for a mere 50 cents. Currently looking for ways, other than hibernating in a hat and gloves under my comforter, to stay warm. Please contact me at mmryan1@gmail.com to pitch your ideas. (FYI - I already tried hot potatos in my pockets, an old Irish tradition)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On reverse culture shock

After a year of living in Indonesia, I'm back in the US and experiencing reverse culture shock, BIG time. I realized adapting to the conveniences of a developed country would be difficult my first night back, when I used an oven to cook a pizza. I no longer had to dread turning on the oven in fear that I might light myself on fire. Where is the thrill in that? *sigh*

To my horror, there were no buckets to wash myself with freezing cold water; I guess warm water and proper shower heads will have to do. *groan*

What's that you say? Don't be a baby?

Hold on. It gets worse.

My first night out with friends in Chicago I was overwhelmed with all the choices of beer compared to the two in Indonesia: Bintang and Carlsberg. From the sweet woodchuck hard cider, to the classic Bluemoon, to the Chicago brewed 312 urban wheat Ale I was blinded by all the options.  It was enough to make my head spin!

I'm telling you, I don't know if I can handle the abundance of everything I could ever want.

In all seriousness though, yes, life is pretty easy here. But that doesn't mean I'll adjust the moment I set foot on American soil.  Reverse culture shock happens. Even though America is a culture that was once my own,  Indonesia is now also. Even though I'm coming back to a familiar place, I am also leaving one behind. Sometimes I miss Indonesia and the simplicity of white rice, very very much.

At the end of the day, it's easy to recount the uncomfortable things to which I need to adjust in America: putting on socks, eating cold breakfasts, going through withdrawl from coconut milk and learning how to stay warm in cold weather. But these are mere peas and carrots compared to the meat of culture shock. What really gets me is that there is NO ONE here that understands what it's like to live in Indonesia. That's what culture shock really is. It's that you feel completely different than everyone else around you.

So what's the cure to reverse culture shock? Perhaps eating burgers and watching a lot of American Football will help me. Nah, America is more than burgers and beefy athletes. However, I do feel out of the loop when my friends pull out their fantasy football plans (then again, I always have). My best move will be to explore the city, reconnect with old friends and meet new folks. Perhaps I'll go looking for the 500 or so Indonesians living in the Chicago Area.

1 comment:

  1. LOL, Megan. sucah a shock to read. hahaha. damn i miss u so.