Reverse culture shock

Atop Stoltzekleiven in Bergen

Hello everyone! I’d like to take this post to discuss a phenomenon I’ve always wished to experience (and now finally have): reverse culture shock.

It’s easy to find stories of culture shock; people go to new places and see new things and meet new people and start new activities and it’s completely understandable given that they’re not used to these new ways of doing things. While it’s indeed an interesting phenomenon in and of itself, I feel it pales in comparison to the psychology behind reverse culture shock; that is, coming back to your country of birth and feeling as if it’s a foreign country.

Coming back from the mountains of Norway, I experienced this. I set foot in the Orlando, Florida airport and was immediately struck by the large amount of Disney advertising everywhere. Yeah, sure, Disney and theme parks, a common thing to advertise and see in Orlando. But it went much further than that: I stepped outside, and it was hot. In actuality, it was only about 23 C (74 F), but the air was wet and heavy, something some people call “muggy”, the kind of weather that makes warm weather feel hot and cool weather feel cold. I felt damp to my core, dunked underwater by some unseen force – this was a marked difference from Norway! Norway doesn’t have nearly as much humidity as Florida, despite it having ample water surrounding it all the same. Norway’s winter was relatively dry compared to those of Florida (if Florida can even be considered to have a true “winter” :P). As I went on through the week following that initial airport landing, I noticed more things, like a thick loaf of bread half my height that cost a mere $1.59. After being away for three months, I couldn’t help but think upon my return: is this really the country I’ve been living in all these years? Here are some of my observations:

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