I know it’s been a while since my last post, but let me fill you in! After saying goodbye to my incredible host family, some amazing friends and the most beautiful city, I traveled for over 27 hours to get home to the United States. It was certainly a roller coaster of emotions. By the time I stepped off the plane in Boston, made it through customs, grabbed my bags and made it out to arrivals where my loving family and friends waited for me—I was too delusional to realize that I was finally home. Let’s just say I woke up the next morning, very confused at where I was.
But now, it has been over two weeks, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that my study abroad experience is over. (However, I know this is not the end of my traveling adventures). Everyone seems to be asking me how it feels to be home. In all honesty, it’s amazing, but definitely a mix of emotions. Although I am back with all my favorite people once again, it was sad to leave a place that grew to become a second home.
What is Reverse Culture Shock?
Now, before we left Sevilla, our study abroad program warned us about “Reverse Culture Shock”. Although I’d like to say I didn’t go through culture shock when I first arrived in Spain, I did. And although I’d like to say “Reverse culture shock” doesn’t exist—it does. It’s very difficult to explain exactly what this is, or what it feels like, but I’m going to try to give you a taste of what it was to me.
Basically reverse culture shock is the feeling that you are a stranger in your own home. When someone explained this to me, I didn’t quite understand what they meant so let me try to paint a picture for you.
For almost two days, I struggled to find light-switches in my house. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets annoying very quickly. My stomach had a hard time readjusting to American food (maybe because it’s less fresh and more processed than in Spain, but it wasn’t the easiest transition). I wanted to say “gracias” instead of “thank you”, or “perdon” instead of “excuse me” to people. I had to tell myself to speak in English. I even got overwhelmed when I went out to eat for the first time, because of the number of choices on the menu and how frequently the waiter came to check on us. Driving was exhausting and strange to get used to again. I was waking up at 5:00am, wide awake, and falling asleep at 9:00pm. I missed the friends I saw every day in Spain, especially my roommate Kayla. That is what reverse culture shock was for me. Now that I am through with the confusing adjusting phase, I am faced with missing study abroad and traveling.
I am relieved to be home, but there is no doubt I will go through waves of sadness as I talk about my experience and show people pictures of my trips. But I believe that is natural. I miss the sunshine of Sevilla and being able to walk anywhere. I miss sitting by the river and watching the sunset. I miss having futbol (soccer) be the only sport they show on TV in bars and restaurants. I miss telling my host Mom about my day at dinner. I miss being able to legally have a glass of sangria with a meal. I miss jet-setting off to a new country each weekend I miss my host brother making fun of us. But, most of all, I miss the culture and relaxed atmosphere of Spain. It was hard not to enjoy life while abroad, and I will certainly miss that.
Getting over Reverse Culture Shock
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Dr. Seuss
Even though a lot about first coming home is tiring and stressful…it passed quickly. I was able to get over the frustration of “reverse culture shock” by spending time doing the things I missed while being away, like hanging with my family and friends. There are so many things that make me happy about being home. I am relieved to eat American food and take a shower in my house, where the temperature of the water stays the same. I can walk into a store and understand (mostly) everything strangers are talking about around me. I can go out to dinner with my boyfriend instead of having “skype dates”. I can watch TV in English, without bad voice-overs on American movies and shows. I can go into a grocery store and have choice (probably too much choice). My milk is stored in the fridge instead of the cabinet. I can wear sweatpants out in public without being judged. I can hang out with my Mom whenever. I can text/call my friends without worrying about a time difference…The list goes on.
The important thing about getting over reverse culture shock is to realize how blessed you were to have the experience of studying abroad in the first place. You can look at your home country through new, well-traveled eyes. You appreciate the presence of your family and friends much more.
The best thing you can do when coming home after an extended period away, is to realize that you can and will most likely go through “reverse culture shock”. Being aware of this will help you to quickly overcome it. Surround yourself with loved ones and keep busy. Attempt to get back into a normal routine as fast as possible. When you’re ready, make a photo book of your time abroad. Try not to dwell on the fact that this adventure is over, but look at it the beginning of many more adventures! xoxo
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can se the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” -Terry Pratchett
As my time abroad in Sevilla draws to an end, I want to open up about my experience and answer any questions you might have about my journey!! I can talk about anything you’re interested in really… culture shock, adjustment, traveling, personal experiences, high’s & lows…I’m up for whatever!
If you have any questions about my trip that you would like me to answer in my next blog post, please either comment on this post or send me an e-mail at Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org ! I would love to hear from you guys!! Let me know what you are most curious about, so I can be sure to cover it in my next post!!
“I’m not stupid, I just live in a foreign country” -What I have to tell myself every single day.
Now that I’ve been in Spain for 2 whole weeks, I am beginning to assimilate myself into the Spanish lifestyle & culture (slowly but surely). It is most definitely a process, and in no way is it easy. But it’s exciting, challenging and well worth it.
I am not sure what you all think of when you think of Spain…maybe it’s bull fights, maybe it’s Tapas, or maybe you just think of me! Spain is a beautiful, old country in Western Europe and has the same luxuries we have in the States. However, people in Spain are much different than people in the US. Let me share some of the interesting things I’ve discovered about Spanish culture along my journey thus far!
Why is there milk in the cabinet?
A very interesting question, I know. It is normal for people in Spain to store their milk in the cabinet, and then put it in the fridge before using it. I believe their milk is pasteurized and that is why they are able to store it in warm conditions until it’s ready to use….still very strange for me! (I didn’t have the chance to take a picture of our milk, but it comes in a plastic container like this one…no large gallons or paper cartons!)
Is this a road or a walkway?
Probably both. You might think that a small cobblestone street, where everyone is walking in the middle of the road is just for pedestrians. Think again. Little cars and mopeds fit nearly any and everywhere.
When are we going to eat dinner?
Not until 9:30-10:00pm! Meal times are very different in Spain, and I am just beginning to adjust to this. Breakfast is usually around 8:00-9:00am and is very small. Lunch, which is their biggest meal of the day happens between 2:00-3:00pm. Then, a small dinner is served around 9:30-10:00pm. (I promise to do a post about food soon!)
While I was in the process of adjusting to meal times, I made a trip the grocery store right up the street from me and purchased some snacks. (Not sure why the toothpaste is in this picture but I needed that too!) I thought these chips were sour-cream and onion flavored when I bought them but I don’t think they are…still good though! And that bar of chocolate (sad to say) is already gone!! I need to get another (or 3) for when I crave something sweet!!
Why/what is that hanging from the ceiling?
That would be “jamon”…or “ham” when translated to English. I’m not sure why it has to be hanging from the ceiling in almost every restaurant/tapas/grocery store, but it is! They eat a LOT of jamon here and I guess they like to use it for decorations too??!
Am I in the bike path?
If you are in the bike path: MOVE! Bikes will stop for NO ONE and you will get hit…or worse, they will ring their bike-bell at you!! Seville has bike paths all over the city because so many people ride bikes to get places. It’s their own lane designated just for bikers (kind of a nice idea) but confusing when you are walking down the street. The bike lanes are marked by circles on the ground, so if you are ever in doubt, look around for one of these!
What is that?
So this contraption is in the bathroom Kayla and I share in our home-stay. Two weeks and we are still not sure what it is. We’ve guessed it’s a bidet but it doesn’t quite seem like one. Your guess is as good as mine.
How far of a walk is it?!!
Through Triana, across the bridge, down the street, through Puerta Jerez….Just keep walking. Walking is EVERYHING here. I’m not sure how women do it in heels, when I can barely keep up in my boots! Like I’ve said before, it takes about 40 minutes for me to walk to school, but that is average for most people in Seville!
& to go along with walking….
Why does everyone walk so slow?!
Maybe it’s an American thing, maybe it’s a New England thing, or maybe I just get it from my Dad…but when I have someplace to go, I walk relatively quick to get there! On multiple occasions, Kayla and I have heard Spanish kids and people comment on how fast we are walking! Here, most people don’t walk…they stroll. No one is in a big rush! I like the idea of walking slow and taking everything in, but walking quickly is a hard habit to break!
Where is the light switch?
Maybe this is just our apartment building but our light switches are circular balls that you roll up or down to turn the lights on/off. This is the light switch for our room near my bed. The top part is an outlet (also different here so we have to use converters) and the bottom is the light switch.
When are they going to bring the check?
Never. Or at least not until you ask for it! In the US we are used to a waitress/waiter bringing the check over when we are finished eating (sometimes even before) but here in Spain it is uncommon for a server to bring you the check before you request it. That is because Spanish people spend a great deal of time eating, talking and enjoying their time with friends when they go to a restaurant. Nothing is very rushed here, so you can ask for the check when you are ready.
And of course no one teaches you this, so you learn one night when you are out with friends and the check never comes…We all learned this while we were out to eat in Madrid. We sat there for a pretty long time after we were done eating until finally someone got up to ask for the check. Later on, we figured out that this is what we need to do every time!
What does 16:00 mean?
16:00 means it’s 4:00pm in Spain. My class schedule was in (what we would call) military time, travel itineraries for trips and flights are in this too. For some reason this really bothers me, so I have a cheat sheet on my computer until I get used to it.
What is everyone saying to me?
Well there is no clear answer to this question. Living in Seville (& the South of Spain) people have really thick accents here. They leave off the end of words and letters, and sometimes don’t even speak in full sentences but with one or two phrases or words.
Most people in Spain also speak with (what sounds like) a lisp, but isn’t really. What do I mean by this? Try saying “Barcelona” out loud. Now say it like the Spanish do, “Bar-thay-lona”. Or “Plaza Nueva”…now say “Platha Nueva”. Seeing as my high school teacher and college professors have only ever spoken with a Latin American style Spanish, it is definitely a huge adjustment. My most common phrases in Spanish are “Que?” (What?) or “No entiendo” (I don’t understand). Lucky for Kayla and I, our host Mom is very patient and will repeat what she is saying until we get it.
Strange enough, this picture was taken about two weeks ago in Madrid! Feels like forever ago! Our first full day in Spain, taken in the Plaza Mayor! It’s safe to say that we’re figuring this country out, little by little! It is definitely a huge adjustment living in Spain, but a worth-while experience. I’ve learned a great deal these past two weeks and I hope to learn a lot more!
So if you plan on visiting Spain, take my advice: watch out for bikers, buy some snacks and good walking shoes, and take a deep breath: because you’re not stupid, you’re just in a foreign country! xoxo