Culture shock is a common experience when travelling to a foreign culture, reversed culture shock, however, is not discussed as commonly. Yet, this is what we felt upon our arrival in Australia.
We have truly loved our 18 weeks of travelling in Asia. Each country with its own charm, its treasures and hidden gems.
· Japan with its structure, shrines, nature, history, and wonderful mix of new and old.
· Taiwan with its interesting history, wonderful people, incredible food, also nature, and even a place we called home 13 years ago.
· Vietnam made us fall in love with the people, food and culture right away and the breathtaking views in the north.
· Cambodia with its lovely and genuine people, all working hard to rebuild their beautiful country.
· Thailand where we took a break from being on a constant move, and instead just enjoyed their food and beaches for a bit.
· Malaysia surprised us in so many ways, with the harmony in which people with different cultural and religious backgrounds live in harmony, the cultural diversity, and also their food and beautiful nature.
· Singapore where we found a most interesting mix of new and old, again a diversity in their culture, people, religious belief and incredible food.
All the different cultures in South East Asia have taught us so much on so many levels, and we have loved every bit of it. Therefore, it came as quite the surprise to us that we felt the way we did our first week in Australia. We had no idea that we would come to appreciate being in a Western civilization again like we did. A lifestyle that obviously was more familiar to us compared to the countries we had travelled in the last four months.
Can it really be this easy?
All of a sudden, it was as if our shoulders came back down in place, we drew a sigh of… not relief, more a sigh of relaxation… and everything just seemed easy again. Honestly, we haven’t missed the Western lifestyle, on the contrary, we have truly enjoyed broadening our horizon in terms of culture, people, food, ways of living, religions etc. I think, it was the realization of how easy life, and in particular travelling can be, that made us unwind and rest in a way we hadn’t been able to for four months. In particular, to be able to read, speak and understand everything that goes on around you, makes a difference. I am saying this with a bit of hesitation as Australian slang and Australian English definitely has its challenges for a foreigner, but in the most charming and entertaining way.
All in all, we were just so excited to be in Australia, and the boys found a new joy of exploring playgrounds and being able to communicate with the local children and of course other traveling children that we met along the way.
Kids and Culture Shock
We have always thought that kids are kids, and they don’t need a common spoken language in order to play and have fun. And while it is true to some extent, it’s a truth with modifications. Even for children the cultural norm plays a role. And we saw this very clearly as we explored playgrounds in Perth. The ease with which the boys found new friends and engaged in games and plays with other children, was an eye-opener for us. Again, this wasn’t even something we had thought about while travelling in Southeast Asia, but now that we were in Australia, we saw a change in the behavior of our boys, how they could decode the other kids and their games much faster and easier.
The Gift of Cultures
I do want to underline that our boys have learnt so much from engaging and playing with all the local children in the countries we have travelled in. We have never seen this issue as a problem or even a challenge, on the contrary, we have seen it as an opportunity for them to learn and grow. It is simply a fascinating observation to see how they decode differently and their way of acting accordingly that has become so visible to us, now that we are back in more familiar settings, in terms of a Western culture.
We were not really prepared for the reversed culture shock, which probably is one of the reason that it hit us so much harder – but all in a very positive way.