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BLOG: Community - "Reverse Culture Shock"

BLOG: Community - "Reverse Culture Shock"

Summary: Aaron talks about his return to America and all that comes with it.


Author: Aaron Hilliker



Hello, for the first time, from America! Well, for the first time without a ticket back to Vanuatu. I left on the first of May and traveled for roughly 36 hours and still arrived back home on the first of May! It was one of the longest and bitter sweet birthdays I have ever had. 

    One thing that most people don’t realize is the that there is a phenomenon that happens to you when you have lived abroad for so long. It’s called reverse culture shock. How could someone have culture shock from their own culture? Let me tell you how. 

    First off, I am having a rather hard time using a fork. Everything in Vanuatu was cut small and allowed you to just use a spoon. I now find it much easier to each everything with a spoon. Well, except for a steak. 

    Another example, is speaking in English. I often get stuck on commonly used English words. I will be saying something and then just stop abruptly in my tracks. I’ll have the bislama word in my head, just ready to be said, but I know it will not make sense if I said it. I usually end up saying the word and my family will help me fill in the blank after the fact. 

    Living abroad also helps you to realize what’s “normal” in different cultures. When you want to get someone’s attention what do you do? You say, “Hey!” In Vanuatu, you make the kissing noise that is used to get the attention of dogs here in America. Just imagine the strangers’ faces when I did that in the middle of the grocery store, trying to get my mom’s attention. My mom is now used to the noise and it’s interesting seeing these two cultures colliding. 

    I would say I am transitioning from phase 2, The Honeymoon, into phase 3, Confusion. I have been home for almost a month now, getting my room back in order, visiting family and friends, and eating all the familiar delicious foods. However, I have been finding myself becoming frustrated because we waste so much here in America, we worry a lot about problems that are not life threatening, and people are very impatient. Not saying that Vanuatu did not have their problems, every society does, however, I lived in that society and adapted to those problems and concerns. Now, coming back to America, I can look at a culture that used to be normal to me with a new lens. With a new point of view. 

    Once the frustration dies down, I’ll move into the final stage of reverse culture shock and that is adaptation. I will relearn to be in my mother culture and relearn how I fit in it. Which seems to be going well so far. I do not have a “job” right now, rather, I actually found someone that needs some documents to be translated from bislama audio into written English. Who would have known that I would find work with a language that roughly 300,000 people speak! I know all of you just got out of the winter, so let’s get outside and enjoy the weather!