Reverse culture shock is the phenomenon of being ‘shocked’ by your own culture after spending many years in a different culture. After three years in Japan, I went to Australia and was surprised at how I wasn’t used to things. Now, I’d never been to Australia before, so I guess it can’t really be considered ‘reverse culture shock’, but since Australia is highly westernized, I’m going to consider some of it as ‘reverse-culture-shock’.
From Japan to Australia
After three years of hearing nothing but Japanese around me, when I first arrived at the airport in Australia, the main shock was to my ears. It almost felt like I’d been bitten by a radioactive spider, as the conversations and accents of the people in the airport flooded into my eardrums with a sharpness I wasn’t used to. It suddenly felt like I’d gained super-hearing.
It’s not often you’d hear an English speaker in Japan while walking about, but when I did, it stuck out like a sore thumb compared to Japanese. Surrounded by the buzzing chatter of those in the airport, I couldn’t help picking up on random conversations and inadvertently listening. It was quite a strange sensation.
The second thing I noticed quite soon was the number of people who were overweight to a level that is associated with serious health problems. Have no doubt, in Japan and the UK, there are plenty of overweight people – just not to the frequency or scale of what I saw in Australia.
Face tattoos, a lack of train stations, and inaudible Australian accents were other things that felt strange, too. Now, don’t take this wrong, I’m not trying to insult Australia – Australia is an awesome country that I really enjoyed… it’s just that ‘having lots of awesome beaches’ doesn’t really fall under ‘culture shock’.
Reverse Culture Shock in the UK
After Australia, I came back to the UK for the first time in nearly 4 years. The UK is very different to Australia, so once again I experienced some (true) reverse culture shock.
One thing, it was pretty damn cold! After a year-long summer (going from Japanese summer to Australian summer), I sure did feel the bitter coldness in the air!
Also, chocolate bars are really cheap, which is cool – not as cheap as they used to be though. If it is the effect of Brexit or just general inflation, I’m not sure, but some things have gotten expensive.
The main issue I found with the UK was the insane amount of litter. From a distant view, you may not notice it, but when you start looking in places that aren’t looked after, it can be like a dumping ground (mind this is Yorkshire, not London).
Over walls, in fields, and other places that aren’t immediately obvious is where most litter is. I don’t think it’s that people are throwing litter down there every day, but it’s just the fact that these places have never been cleaned, and one litter gathers, people suddenly think “one more empty crisp packet in all that won’t change anything”.
It would be nice if the government and councils invested a little into cleaning up these areas once in a while.