Reverse Culture Shock? 

I have great news! 

Finally! 

I’ve bought my plane ticket to go home this summer! After two years, I finally will step foot on American soil, and I will tread it for two months (insallah). 

Let’s skip the political drama and go straight to the fear of reverse culture shock. A term for when you’ve been out of your own culture so long, when you return you experience a shock as if it were foreign. 

 I’ve read that culture shock comes in three stages. 

First, the honeymoon stage. Everything is sunshine and rainbows, and butterflies fly out of every crevice you can find. I personally call this the vacation stage. Where all the new things are exciting and you just gobble it up. This is very well documented at the beginning of my “in turkey” posts. 

Second comes the homesickness. The feeling of vacation has worn off because you’ve been away from your country long enough that you must put down your roots here. This is when the every day convenience of knowing- you know- everything, becomes glaringly obvious. You never even realized how something as reactive as checking out in the grocery store line was until you are forced to do it in a country where you barely understand the language and don’t recognize the money. You’re frustrated and angry. This is also pretty well documented on my blog. 

The final stage, much like the stages of grief, is acceptance. You accept your new home for what it is. That some things are good, some things are bad, but you are able to function and generally have a life. It’s gonna take many years to get to the comfort of your own country, but it’s a process. 

I guess that’s where I am? I don’t know. But that brings up the issue of reverse culture shock. 

Now that I’ve basically adjusted to Turkey, will America be the same as I remember it? Or will my Turkish tinted goggles make everything look different? Again not getting too deep into the politics, but will things be harder for me as a hijabi than they were before (side note: it was easier in America when I left than it is now.)?

Since I came to Turkey I’ve become more patriotic. I wave my invisible American flag and recite the national anthem every Friday after school (right after the Turkish one is recited at school).  Every time someone does something ridiculously Turkish I roll my eyes and say “no one would do that in America”.

Maybe I’m a stick in the mud for Turkey, but I am how I am and I prefer my interactions as I prefer them. 

But what if America isn’t the way I remember it? What if I have nowhere to aspire to anymore…

The thought makes my stomach hurt.  

Leave America at the airport

While rocking together on a porch swing in the cool Mediterranean night, my husband turned to me and asked

How are you feeling about Turkey?

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Naturally, my first instinct was to say “good!” but, I wanted to give a more detailed answer than that.  Between jet lag and all of the running around we had been doing, I had been very tired recently and he was worried about how quiet I had been for the week we had been there- and that I hadn’t been my normal, bubbly self.

  I assure you all, I am just exhausted.  

But anyway, I started to really think about how I felt about Turkey. Really. And the word that kept coming to my mind was

different

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But not different in a bad way, like how my mom uses it to describe food she doesn’t like…but different in a..different sort of way.  I know you shouldn’t use the same word to define or describe a word, but there it is.  Turkey is different than the US. It just is.  If you come here looking for a western experience, you are going to be very disappointed.  The traffic is different, the speaking is different, the way of showing affection is different, the buildings are different, the lifestyle is different… the only thing that isn’t different is that we all bleed the same blood.  It is so different.

I can understand how culture shock could flatten a lot of people who aren’t prepared for this huge change.  I suffered it myself the first time we came four years ago.  Fortunately I know what to expect this time around, and have been mentally preparing myself for this change for several years.  Also, I have the huge benefit of the love and support of family (in Turkey and back int he US) while I am here.  That definitely helps take the edge off.

A bit of advice to those struggling with a culture adjustment- jump in with both feet and leave America (or wherever you are from) at the airport.  Fighting against your new home will only make you miserable.  Embrace it, enjoy it, and find the parts that give you comfort.

I hope it keeps working for me too :).