When you travel overseas to a third-world country, you can experience what is called: culture shock. This is a feeling of anxiety and confusion when operating in a different cultural environment. You can even reach a level of anger when your inner core belief system opposes how the new culture operates.
I experienced a reverse culture shock when I returned to Orlando, Florida, after being in Haiti. What did I experience and why?
My Three Reverse Culture Shock Observances:
- The Options
Why all the options? Life is so simple in Haiti. People eat for survival and on a regular basis they eat relatively healthy. When I landed at the Miami airport, all I saw were fast food options. Then at the Orlando airport, it was junk food city. What kind of candy would you like? The options in America are not 100% better, as a matter of fact; we are hurting our health by eating processed foods, especially sodas and junk food. Our options are not better, they are just that, options that we need to say no to.
- The Wants
Comparison kills pure motives. Think about it. In America, we want because we see. See what? What others have or what we could have. The marketing of consumer goods has focused on driving a message of want, want, want and we need to say: I have enough! That is a balance of perspective only received when we have witnessed others with less. Stop looking at what others have, and start looking at what others “don’t have” so we can become more content with all that we already have.
- The Rat Race
After I landed at the Miami airport, the first stop was immigrations. When I stepped up to the desk to show the U.S. custom’s agent my passport, he asked me, “How are you today?” I responded: “Fine.” I then returned the question by asking him, “How are you?” His response surprised me. He said in a sarcastic voice: “I’m living the dream, the American dream.” (as he punched in some information on the computer and scanned my passport) I then said: “You’re living the rat race?” He responded: “Yes.” Then I said with a laugh: “Welcome to America!” This encounter made me think more about how we put ourselves in a position of competition and obligation. We over borrow to obtain a lifestyle then we work and work and work so we can afford the pleasures of American life, while we sacrifice relationships and quality time. Balance? Maybe one day. Maybe retirement? Maybe vacation? Why not just living out of the rat race and on a track of personal balance? I’m not there yet, but I want to work toward greater balance in my life. This is my greatest struggle because I work and travel too much.
My reverse culture shock of coming to back America leaves me with the excitement to tweak my habits and look forward to my next trip to Haiti where I’ll gain deeper perspective. I grew up in Haiti where I first went at the age of 11. To this day, I’m still greatly impacted by each visit I make there.
How are you shocked by life in America or where you live? Are you challenged for a life of balance? How and why?