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Culture Shock Canada!

Posted by on January 18, 2013

The sky is low and grey. Snowflakes drift lazily, framed by the library window. A lecture floats through my earbuds, vying for my attention. As I click through dozens of photos brightly painted houses, shrieking children, lush palms and steaming chapatis pull me out of the dull Ontario winter and into memories.

Culture shock is a doozy. But reverse culture shock? Nothing prepares you for it. No matter how many times I return home from a far off place, I find the transition to life at home to be a challenge.

You see, when I board the plane to India, I think, ‘Wow, we’re going to India. Crazy.’ I have a bag bursting with Indian clothes and jewelry, and as the plane soars over Eastern Europe, my brain slowly shifts into India Mode. When I experience something perplexing or upsetting or awesome or disappointing, I tell myself, ‘Well, this is India. This is how they roll.’ And I smile and take a picture.

It probably doesn’t help that the plane ride back to Canada is usually at the eleventh hour–the longest we can possibly stay in India without missing school or work. As the plane makes its slow trek toward North America, I sleep off weeks of fun, days of Delhi Belly and hours of goodbyes. We land with a suitcase filled with dirty laundry, souvenirs, exploded shaving cream and a maxed-out memory card. When I find something in my  Canadian life to be opulent or unnecessary, when I find myself baffled by our busy lifestyle, when I feel suffocated by apathy, I’m at a loss. I try to think, ‘Well, this is Canada. This is how we roll.’

But why? Why do we blast heat into empty lobbies? Why do I eat lunch alone in front of a computer? Why do I run shower water before I’m even in the shower? Why do we wear dark, muted colours when the trees and grass and sky don persistent shades of charcoal and olive?

What I’m slowly realizing is that culture shock has a lot to do with agency, that is, the ability to affect change. In Canada, the questions can’t be pushed out of my brain with an ‘oh well, this is the life I’ve chosen’. This is my home turf, my culture, and my lifestyle. It’s not something foreign to be humored, but a life and culture I help to create. As the clothes are put into piles on the floor and the fridge is restocked, the questions begin to accumulate.

This trip to India was particularly incredible. We treasured moments with dear family members,  street children, old friends and snake charmers. We dined in five star hotels and sipped chai in slum huts. We asked questions, breathed prayers and made promises we’ll likely spend our lifetime pursuing. Perhaps this is why we’re processing slowly, blinking hard to concentrate and falling into bed at 9 each night.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll bore regale you with stories from the East, as well as a few gems from the archives of Awkward Amelia Moments In India. But for today, I’ll focus on resurfacing above the piles of mail, school assignments, bangles and boxes of tea.

 (I would have loved to put a few pictures in this, but I am trouble with the ‘add media’ button in WordPress. I’ve tried clearly my cache and cookies, restarting, updating flash…Any idea what’s wrong?!)

One Response to Culture Shock Canada!

  1. ladki

    I enjoyed this post. I think going to India gives a reminder of how wasteful we are in the Western world with some of our natural resources, like water.

    Whenever I come back I also experience some of the reverse culture shock like you. It makes me both ashamed about some things (like how we waste heat and electricity and throw away shoes), but it also makes me grateful for some of the “luxuries” I have here like guaranteed sit-down toilets, hot water coming straight out of faucets, clean water, paved roads, social services for the poor and traffic regulation.

Thoughts? I love hearing from you!