Posts tagged culture shock

Reverse Culture Shock

I’ve just been to London. It felt a bit like I was visiting a foreign city. Which, I guess, I was. Even so, having spent less than a year in Japan, I’m surprised by the extent to which I experienced reverse culture shock while I was back.

Sitting outside Baker Street tube station, watching pedestrians ignore the lights at the crossing, and the drivers trying to run them over, it felt like I was far from civilisation. Paying to use filthy toilets. Listening to braying toffs. Watching braying toffs flopping their fringes while wearing ridiculous, random arrangements of colour AND NO SOCKS. Watching everyone else slobbing around in what seemed to be their gardening clothes – presumably to cover up the Brobdingnagian folds of flesh that enveloped their bodies. People bumping into each other! Paying 21 pounds sterling for a train ride that would cost 200 yen in Japan. Paying 80 pounds for a couple of kebabs and a bottle of house red. Walking through filthy, polluted streets. It felt like I was far from home.

After we got married my wife and I honeymooned around eastern Europe. We enjoyed it immensely, but I couldn’t help feeling that everyone was wearing clothes that were out of date, and that everyone was a little bit ruder than I was used to – I felt a bit like one of the over-privileged toffs from Seven Go Mad In Peru, complaining about how the little Amazonian rainchildren are so ungrateful that they couldn’t even form an orderly queue to receive their Union Jack stickers.

And that’s how it felt going back to England. Having become used to the carefully dressed fashions and general cleanliness in Japan, going to England was like travelling round eastern Europe (and Turkey – specifically the driving and the filthy toilets. Oh, and the squits). It was nice to visit, but I didn’t want to live there.

The first thing I did when we got back to Yamanashi was to take a leisurely walk along the Arakawa, taking in the distant view of Mount Fuji; being constantly surprised by the reflections on the surface of sunken rice fields; and watching ducks, geese, herons, cranes, brightly coloured carp, and even turtles (or maybe terrapins). It felt like I was home.

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