Reverse culture-shock.


The thing that I find interesting about our settling back into normality is the fact there was basically no re-adjustment period. As soon as we landed it was as if we had never left. Other than being extremely tired, getting used to the  slight time-difference (ie I’m waking up at 8am – where in China it would still be 5am etc) it couldn’t have been more normal.

One of the things I really disliked about China was the bread. It was disgusting! It tasted sweet, I think it was pre-buttered if you can believe that. Worse than the actual taste was the smell. Without fail, any bread bought anywhere had this sickly butter type smell to it – I can’t even really put my finger on what it was. There was actually an abundance of bread available, most pre-packaged and not fresh, though many of the bakeries sold what looked like fresh bread – though still stanky!

I was surprised by just how many bakeries there were. I didn’t expect to find any, let alone ones that looked like they’d been lifted from any street of any western country. The Chinese bakeries unlike western bakeries tended to focus mainly on cakes. They had an almost unbelievable range of bizarre looking products in usually a wide assortment of colours, and most often caked in cream. We started buying them initially to try out the different kinds but quickly discovered that they either 1. had little to no flavour or 2. were full of sweet beans – something I could never get into or 3. tasted all the same anyway.

Getting back on track – I was thoroughly looking forward to getting back to Australia and sinking my teeth into nice soft white bread. My mouth waterered at the thought of eating a chicken salad sandwich in between some nice thick sour-dough – or anything. Anything would do as long as it was Australian bread – not Chinese. I did happen to find normal bread in China once, in the bulk German stores called Metro. We discovered by chance that the baquettes they sold there happened to be regular bread, woohoo!

So I got back to Australia and did in fact get stuck into some bread, but it didn’t do it for me like I had hoped it would. In fact, nothing seemed new or novelty or even missed. We settled back in with alarming speed and now, a few months later we’re in a phase where we actually completely miss China – hence this new blog. I guess this is some form of reverse culture shock. We dont feel anything like we did when in China, though we do feel unsettled. We’re still not in a place of our own, all of our belongings are still in storage – we’re in limbo.

It’s like we’ve gone around some huge circle. When we decided to live in China we suddenly scoured the earth for every concievable Chinese resource. Books, TV documentaries, travel fiction, you name it. We poured over maps, read up on destinations, browsed expat forums, everything – including learning Mandarin. When we actually got to China, most of the things we had learnt were basically just thrown right out the window.

The China on TV looks very different to the China in reality.

Now we are home, China 3 months away and getting further by the day. And here we are absorbed in what was a truly fascinating culture. We have no immediate plans to return but I will be completely not surprised if we end up back there within the next few years. We won’t go there to live again(at least I highly highly doubt it), but I can definitely see us spending more time there. We experienced too many things, learnt too much to simply shelve it and forget about it. When you settle in to the point you can deal with what seems like the undealable, you know you’ve made progress.

I used to like walking down the street, looking around me at the bazillion people, all completely busy with their day to day tasks, bikes, cars, carts, dogs everywhere and say, “I cannot believe where we are.” I so miss that feeling.


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2 Responses to “Reverse culture-shock.”

  1. range Says:

    I find that the service I get in shops is shocking. In Canada, people in shops actually want to help me make purchases! Incredible! They go around with me to help me out.

    In Taiwan, none of that ever happened. Then again, my Mandarin isn’t that great. Still, that was the culture shock I experienced. I haven’t eaten bread consistently in years, so I didn’t miss it that much. What I did miss is cold cuts. For some reason, proscuito isn’t liked in Taiwan. I didn’t find it anywhere.

  2. Marcus Says:

    Thing is though, in Canada they would only come around with you and help you purchase if you wanted them to – well unless they were highly annoying.

    In China you enter a store – particularly clothing stores and they are ON you. They then follow you around the store, directly behind you all the way. If you’re not making enough effort to browse, they’ll then select items they think you might like – random items, terrible items! It is so utterly annoying!

    In a few instances I would loiter behind my girlfriend with my elbows thrust out, forming a human barricade between her and the shop girl who would be trying to look over my shoulders(but i had a great height advantage), so she could at least get a few minutes of peace!

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