Reverse Culture Shock

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Reverse Culture Shock

Traveling and living in another country are amazing experiences I have had. I have immersed myself in in a foreign culture, have acquired a new language and have adjusted to a different climate. But the biggest challenge has been returning to my hometown for visits.

After eight months in Culiacan, I returned to Winnipeg intent on finding employment and remaining in Canada. While it was great to see my children and my friends, it definitely was not one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I had grown accustomed to a far different way of life in Mexico and I was quickly overwhelmed by the stressful lifestyle in Winnipeg. I lasted five weeks and breathed a sigh of relief when I boarded that flight back to Mexico.

The following two years were a split of six months in Guadalajara and six months in Winnipeg as I had two knee replacements done a year apart in Canada. I really had to psyche myself up for those lengthy Canadian stays. Anxiety and panic attacks were my constant companions along with grueling physiotherapy following the two surgeries.

When I returned to Guadalajara, it was for eighteen months this time. I planned a brief visit to Winnipeg to launch my second book in May of this year. However the two weeks dragged out to five weeks and it really was no vacation. I had a myriad of appointments and endless issues to contend with. Those weeks were exhausting and stressful.

I returned to Mexico in June and moved directly to Mazatlan. I welcomed the challenges of a new city to explore. Of course I did have to deal with Immigration and that comes in second only to divorce in terms of stress and aggravation.

Reverse culture shock is common when you have lived in another country and return to your hometown. The biggest obstacle for me is the concept of time. Here in Mexico, the pace is much slower. I like to call it the “land of manana.” There’s always another bus, another train and another day. There is no rush and multi-tasking is not a necessity. Everything gets done in its own time.

When I returned to Winnipeg, multi-tasking was an absolute necessity. Appointments combined with shopping in the same morning or afternoon left me feeling like I was in a marathon. I missed my little corner tiendas and the neighborhood tienguis. I missed the leisurely stroll to a coffee shop or a bar instead of the hassle of driving in traffic.

I missed the sound of the beautiful Spanish language. Although English is the predominant language in Winnipeg, I heard far more conversations in a variety of foreign languages when shopping in the malls.

I missed the smiling Mexican faces greeting me with a Buen Dia although they were complete strangers to me. Bus drivers would wish me a good day when I said gracias as I alighted from the bus.

While it was nice to return to some of my favorite restaurants, I missed the street food in Mexico. Wherever I was, a taco stand or a churro stand were never far away. And many of the foods I had become accustomed to in Mexico just were not available in Winnipeg.

I missed the loudspeakers blaring in the streets advertising tamales or fruit or mattresses. I missed the jingle of the Zeta gas truck and the bells of the ice cream vendors. I missed people trying to sell me pencils or tools through my window. I missed people offering me pots and pans in exchange for jewelry.

I could go on and on. But until you have actually done what I have, I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand the struggle in returning to your home town after a lengthy stay in another country.  My world no longer begins and ends in Winnipeg. I have grown and learned so much in the past five years in Mexico. And isn’t that what life is all about?

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