Imagine you were in a coma, you wake up, life changed, family changed, friends are grown and you’re not the same either. You’re finding yourself feeling out of place and isolated, but there are many people around you.
Hi, let me introduce you to a friend I call Reverse culture shock. Now before I go into that I have to explain what culture shock actually means. So culture shock is a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes combined with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.
I studied abroad in Malaysia for almost 4 years and I was thrown into the deep end to say the least. As my first time travel experience I was literally shook arriving that side. My whole life and foundations were shook! I get there and EVERYTHING is different!
Public toilets are squat toilets, they don’t use toilet paper as a primary means of “wiping” – they use a bidet shower also known as bidet sprayer, or health faucet, which is a hand-held triggered nozzle that delivers a spray of water for anal cleansing after defecation. People in Malaysia actually eat with a fork and spoon and not the normal knife and fork. These customs were just beyond but not beneath me.
So Malaysia is a hub for international expats and I took the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I fell in love with Arab culture and traditions and my world was changed by Nigerian jollof rice and beef stew: not to be eaten together. I lived my best life tasting Mongolian barbeque, learned the proper etiquette of ‘shisha’ – hubbly back home and most of all I learned how to interact with people from different backgrounds, had dinners with kids of very important leaders from different countries and experienced life with families who are rich in culture.
Since it is a kingdom under a Muslim government I was truly blessed to experience Muslim custom and learnt to be more sensitive to religions and traditions, not just of Muslim, but of vast denominations. I learned about the different celebrations, which I was not otherwise exposed to in Namibia.
So 4 years later I’m back in Namibia, and it feels like life has reset and I’m learning to be a “Namibian” for the second time. I am stuck between keeping an international mindset because for the past 4 years that’s all I was accustomed to and learning old customs that I used to be apart of, and that I have literally outgrown.
Whenever I mention Malaysia I get a side eyed, eye rolling or an “ugh…” Friends are reluctant to hear anything you have to say about your experience, because for them you’re boasting and the info is irrelevant. You’ve pick up a certain way of interacting with friends and you try to introduce these ways to your friends and you get shut down quicker than you can say “boarding for flight MH370” .
So in Namibia, if there is one thing I’ve noticed since I got back is that as much as our countrymen say we are the most open minded or westernized African country, we are ignorant AF! The way we talk about other religions, countries and belittle nations because of the way they have been portrayed by foreign media is so unfair for those on the loosing end of the stick.
If I tell you now, “lets go backpacking in rural India” ,4 out 5 people will respond in disgust, without even thinking about what they could experience culturally. I mention the Middle East a lot to many people and many times ( and I don’t know if I should get offended, cause I have no Arab family or ancestry that I know of ) I get really offended at the terrorist or Muslim jokes. I’m a born again Christian by the way. I know we all make racially fueled jokes here and there, but when it comes to slander and negative connotations out of pure ignorance and insensitivity, I just don’t know if I am able to associate with said offender further.
I’ve felt like an outsider in my home hometown for the pass two years and there’s nothing I can do about it without offending or making the ones I care about looking at me weird or judging. I talk, think, interact even dress differently and get persecuted for it. I honestly can’t blame anyone that has not left the country. I also do not expect them to understand how I – and a lot of re-entry Namibians feel, but I do expect the people around me to help me deal with the transition.
Imagine how it feels having to leave a home that you might never see again for a home that will always be there for you. It’s a sad transition and makes it even harder when no one wants to relate. How do I fit in to a life that I had before when I’m so different now?