Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock!

Well, after about a year and three months living in Brazil, today it’s finally time for me to pack my bags and head home. So for those of you who don’t know my (newest!) life plan yet, here it is....I applied for, got, and accepted a job teaching English in Moscow. I’ve always wanted to go to Russia.
BUT then I thought about it some more, and realised....I’m not done with Brazil yet.
So as soon as my work visa is processed, I’ll be flying straight back to Brazil. This means I’ll be in the UK for at least the next 2 ½ to 3 months. And I now find myself in a position I’ve not been in for over five years....I’m coming back to live in England for a while! I’m really looking forward to getting back and seeing everyone again, but at the risk of sounding dramatic (Who.....ME? DRAMATIC!?!), at the same time past experience tell me I need to brace myself for some reverse culture shock. 
"Yes, mine was the Big Mac with fries!"
 I guess coming back from Brazil will be easier to get used to than it was coming back from Japan (I won't be bowing at people who serve me in Tesco for a start!). Here is one thing I'm worried about though: that my overuse of Facebook may come back to haunt me. Facebook has become massive in the five years I’ve been away. I like using it because it’s pretty easy to keep track of what my friends get up to. But then Facebook isn’t only for my good friends....because over time I’ve found I’ve added quite a few acquaintances on here too. Some of these people I remember clearly how we met (it really didn’t take a long time for some of my friends to leave a lasting impression! Especially some of the guys I met in Japan.)...but some I really don’t remember how we met, or if I have actually ever spoken. You see, I'm really good with faces...but after that, my memory isn't so good! But these people appear on my Facebook wall; and I know as much about what they has been getting up to as I do about some of my ‘real’ friends! 

"Now then BFF! It's only bloody ME!!!"
Last time I was home I saw someone I know in a pub, and I enthusiastically went over for a chat. I knew a lot about what was going on in her life because she frequently updated her status on Facebook. Unfortunately for me in my drunken state, I’d completely forgotten this girl was someone I barely knew in ‘real life’. So she looked really confused when I bounded over for a catch up, because well, we had barely spoken before, and I guess my over familiarity made for an awkward moment! So here is a warning, don’t be my ‘friend’ on Facebook unless you want me to greet you like a long lost friend in ‘real life’, my memory isn’t great and I get confused!
  Another thing I find challenging to get my head around is how normal being back home is after such a short space of time. It doesn’t seem to matter how long I’ve been away for, after a few hours of being back it’s almost like I’ve never been away. Of course, this is great, but it lulls me into a false sense of security, because it’s like everything you have done before didn’t actually happen. Only it did happen, and people have moved on. So when you are laughing and joking with your friends, and they reference a private joke you know nothing about...then you stop laughing and need to ask what they are talking about, it's weird! You have to remind yourself that the reason you don’t know what they are laughing at is because you have been away, and not because they have been sneakily doing stuff without you!
  Slotting back into life at home can be quite frustrating when you forget small things too. I’ll give you an example of this; the first time I went home after being away for a year and a half, I turned on my Orange pay as you go phone, and found it was still working! Wheeeeeeeeeeey! So me and my sister Hannah went into the phone shop and called over one of the sales men. Maybe I’m wrong, but in England there are only two types of people who work in these shops. First there are those people who are really good at what they do, and know exactly what they are talking about. Then there are those guys who really shouldn’t be there and don’t seem to know anything about phones.

"Sorry, I'm kinda lost! What networks
are there in England?"
   So I was in this phone shop when this second type of phone shop guy walked over. When we started talking to him he looked like he was having trouble remembering to breathe, let alone breathe AND remember to answer my questions at the same time. The conversation went a bit like this:
“How much does a phone call cost to other Orange users?”
“5p a minute”
 “How much does it cost to call other networks, like O2 and, erm....sorry, what other networks are there again?”
The next five seconds were really uncomfortable, as me, Hannah and the phone shop guy all stood there staring at each other. I could see I'd surprised the phone shop guy. He might not have been able to spell his own name without the help of his name badge, but at this moment in time he had kicked my ass at, well....life!
I stood there feeling pretty stupid....how could I have forgotten something so basic? I turned to Hannah, who thought this was hilarious! Whilst staring at me she said, “oh my God, Andrew!” Then she turned to the phone shop guy and said “I’m really sorry, he has been in Japan for a few years, that’s why he can’t remember!”  
"Seriously, don't piss Mummy off....off you little shit!"
And on the same afternoon when we were walking down the high street, I saw a woman walking hand in hand with her kid not too far away. This kid must have really done something to piss Mummy off, because as we got closer to them, she stopped walking, looked at her kid, and slapped his backside really hard! Not surprisingly he started crying. I turned to Hannah and said “Jesus, did you see that woman smacking her kid?” Hannah looked at me like I hadn’t finished what I was saying....and simply said this,”and?” I was reminded that I was now in Scarborough and this was quite normal down Scarborough high street! I’d forgotten how the same standards didn’t apply here.

"And this one time,
in Brazil!"

  Also, the three times I have been home since I was living in Japan, I couldn’t stop starting the majority of my stories with “In Japan (and I am pretty sure I will be starting all my stories with ‘in Brazil’ when I get back). I get annoyed with myself for doing this after a while, so I imagine I must really be quite annoying for other people....so please bear with me whilst I settle back in guys (and get some new stories!).
   I guess me and this blog will be having a vacation from each other for a good few months. Thanks for taking the time to check it out; and for everyone reading in the UK, I hope to see as many of you as I can whilst I’m back...even if you don’t really know me that well but you have me on your Facebook list!