2012-11-19 15.18.13

I love lists. I always feel so accomplished just writing a list. I especially love “to-do” lists because I can cross items off when competed, experiencing an even greater sense of accomplishment. But I also create lists whenever I am feeling stressed or unsure. It always helps me figure out what needs to be done.

Today I realized the little time I have left in Bangkok. Well, I always knew it — but it really started to sink in. So, in natural form, I decided to make a list. A list of some of the things that will be different when I get back home. Sort of as a way to start dealing with the reverse culture shock I will inevitably feel. Here it goes:

– Understanding everyone around me, because they will be speaking English 
– Big cars
– Cars driving on the other side of the road
– Barely any motorbikes (maybe some motorcycles because it will be summer)
– No motorbike taxis
– People obeying road rules
– Less crowds of people (at least where I’ll be when I first get home)
– Average people being much larger in size
– A more heterogeneous population, rather than homogeneous (terms of ethnicity)
– A lack of Ladyboys
– Expensive food, water, massages, clothing– basically everything will cost more
– Fattening food, deep fried food.
– Drive-thrus
– Being around people I have known my whole life

Luckily, there are resources available to help people cope!

The latter Forbes piece was initially featured in The Daily Muse. The woman contributing came home from a Fulbright in Thailand after being here over a year. She also has experience traveling in other Asian countries. Nonetheless, I can totally relate to her on the Hello Kitty pencils–my notebook at the moment has cute cartoon characters on the cover. I also have noticed myself speaking a simplified form of English. Oftentimes I phrase sentences that are at the grammatical level of a third grader–if that. Probably more like a toddler. I do this so people can understand me better. One thing I did not have share was losing weight. In fact, I initially gained over 15 pounds when I first arrived. This is because I am an avid gym goer in the US. Unfortunately, gyms are not so common here (especially where I was teaching.) Fortunately, I have lost most of the weight since.

In any event, on the bright side I have dealt with reverse culture shock before when coming back from China almost two years ago. The first month home I found myself in a paralysis low. I dreamed of ways to get back to China, not in the future but immediately. Ditching college in the US and finishing in China actually crossed my mind. I literally called my registrars office to see if it was feasible. Obviously, it could have been done– I just would have had to put in another two years or so to finish in China. I am not sure if this is common, but my reverse culture shock caused me to act a bit rash. Thank God reality hit and I stayed put. 

I wonder, though, if it will be the same this time. I like to think I am much older and wiser now at 23 than I was at 21. I also would like to believe that having gone through it once will make it easier the second time around. However, according to The Daily Muse writer, going back home after being away for an extended period will always be a struggle.

However, I do think addressing what the differences will be beforehand will help me cope once I arrive.

Today, looking back on when I came home from Shanghai makes me appreciate the way my reverse culture shock played out. Leaving Shanghai wasn’t hard. I didn’t grasp what I was leaving and what was waiting for me when I made it back to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. But once I touched US soil, everything sank in.

Once reaching home, my entire experience finally set in. I fully realized everything I had learned; everything I had seen. The hardest part was not being able to share my experience with others– words and pictures only convey so much. Yeah, I was in a slump at first. But once I got over that my passion for Asia was ignited like never before. I told myself “I have to get back there as soon as possible.”

And I did just that. Before the year 2011 even ended, I made it back to the Asia–this time to Singapore. Okay, it was with my father for a vacation. Even so, I still managed to get back as soon as I realistically could.

I hope this time when I land in the US about three weeks from today, the same thing happens (minus the initial slump). I hope to arrive and have my eyes open in a whole new way where I’ll see the world differently. And, once again, be inspired to achieve more than I had I ever wished in the past.


Image – personal photo featuring myself and class, taken at Sriwichairat School in Nakhon Sawan,Thailand.