This is my fourth time living abroad and also the fourth time prepping my mind for what’s about to come – reverse culture shock, expensive rent, scamming cable companies, endless work and lack of vacation days. It seems that it would get easier as time goes on, right? In some ways it is easier because I’ve been through this experience, but other times its difficult because traveling enhances wisdom. Those who actually want to learn about other cultures (and just don’t move abroad to do drugs and party day and night) you begin to understand human history better. You become wise about philosophies and you certainly know there is more to life than materialism and a paycheck. Traveling is the most liberating experience one can do for their soul.
This move home will be difficult because I spent this year writing, publishing and creating. Although nothing has made me a millionaire yet – I know this reality cannot exist yet because Seattle’s cost of living is so expensive. I am forever thankful for Hannover and Germany that gave me such a wonderful experience. From the simple berries that grow on trees to the different types of wooden tables that the local cafes have, I was able to produce some of the most creative food photography pieces for my vegan cookbook. I don’t think it was possible without living in Old Town. Funny, how life works out.
Well, back to the reverse culture shock. After I lived in Australia at 20 years old, I knew my spirit did not feel at home in America. I’ve kept this in mind throughout the years and living in Germany and exploring my family’s roots further acknowledges why I am a Euro at heart. There is no other place in the world where you can sit at a café and stare at an 11th Century castle while sipping on a latte. I’ve connected to Europe on every level from art to food.
Although I don’t eat meat, I explored each culture’s finest vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods. The freshness of the produce, the slow-cooked meals – food is a part of the culture. I know going back to America grocery shopping is exhausting as you need to read every fucking label for chemicals and “non-food” ingredients.
After Paris, I became sad. After Hannover almost got blown to bits by a terrorist attack I was ready to go home. Now that things have calmed down and seeing the attacks in California, I know my life is safer here in Europe. Hannover, like Australia, are these little gems where you can roam around town without feeling like someone is going to rob or mug you. For a woman, it’s very safe (although anything can happen anywhere) but I get so irritated about the lack of safety in America. I can't even go into a movie theatre without planning an escape route in case someone decides to shoot it up.
Many of us are victims of consumerism and are taught to hate our bodies, think we’re fat and not good enough. Not once in Europe have I had a conversation with a woman over cake and coffee about weight or body image. These are the exact feelings that I had at 20, which led me to study yoga in India. I couldn’t handle certain things that are shoved down the throats in America. I think my beef is that I can’t imagine a world of GMO-foods, constant consumerism and globalization. At times I wonder where the world is going.
But the reality is that when you move abroad you change. When you return home and people are still doing the same thing they were 1.5 years earlier, they don’t change. There is a clash of understanding and most people don’t give two shits about your travel or experiences (mainly family cares). Or when you do talk about your travels you sound like a snob. (Although most people don’t realize you slept on 25 Euros / night beds and ate for less than 40 Euros per day. It’s a Catch-22.
I personally don’t care that everything closes at 8:00pm and on Sundays in Germany. To me, it ensures that at least one culture has work-life balance left in this world. Even mundane tasks in Europe seem more exciting because it’s different. But the most exciting part was talking to people from around the world. Everyone has a different viewpoint about life and your brain begins to soak their perspective to help you formulate yours.
I've had it before, and I am sure I'll have it again - but adjusting to the speed of America is difficult. I felt this on a trip in the UK (which is the Little USA in my books) where I couldn't keep up with the flow of footpath traffic or the having money ready in hand in store lines.
It’s hard to return home when you already feel at home. In a nutshell, to me, living abroad gave me confidence. Not everyday was rainbows and pancakes, but meeting like-minds somehow encourages your wildest dreams. Reverse culture shock is never easy. It sounds simple like “Oh she just needs to snap out of her emotions,” but it doesn’t work like that. Remember what I said earlier, it’s the wisdom you gain that makes you see the world differently.
If you don’t think reverse culture shock can affect anyone, think again. This article is an example of how extreme shock can make someone do something impulsive.