Upon our university orientation to our semester in Italy, a few very misinformed school employees told us about a phenomenon known as “culture shock,” which basically are feeling of sadness, frustration, and anxiety as one attempts to assimilate into life into their host country. Being that Florence is basically America, I feel that “culture shock” didn’t really exist for us. Maybe if one of us spoiled New Jerseyans was studying abroad in Gambia, but we’re not. It’s Florence, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
However, “reverse culture shock” is another story entirely. While we all fit in quite nicely, albeit for a few small frustrations and discrepancies, into our new pseudo-Italian lives, getting back into our lives as over-indulgent Americans was a little more of a struggle.
When I first got back home, I was excited! Overwhelmed! Joyful! at finally being back at my nice quiet home, where I could eat buffalo wings and donuts for a buck and ride in a warm car to get somewhere. However, this joy was short-lived… which wasn’t surprising since it mostly revolved around American bacon. Soon enough, I was looking around every aspect of my old life, which was now my new life, and wondering… Why?
Exhibit A: Yesterday I drove from a Kohl’s to Target, probably about a mile from one another, although on a busy road. As I got back in my car and didn’t even turn on music for the ride, I thought to myself… if I was in Florence right now, I would be walking. And that would be okay. I wouldn’t be releasing poisonous fumes into the air or wasting gasoline, but I would be getting a bit of fresh air (although cold) and that would just be life.
Exhibit B: Once at Target, as I tried to buy some food for my mother, I literally felt so overwhelmed I almost had to leave and I was enormously thankful my mother also showed up around the same time. With my little hand carriage sitting beside me, I was wondering why I didn’t get a cart. What size milk I should get. Why there were so many goddamn brands of bacon. How do people do this? If I was in Florence, I would have walked into a store the size of my room, got everything I needed, and I would have been able to fit it into my backpack. Probably would have made a few friends, too.
Exhibit C: Yesterday, I drove in my car about 30 minutes to get to the mall. If I was in Florence, there would be nothing that I needed that would have been more than 30 seconds away. Yet here, everything is so incessantly spread out, probably so some rich CEOs in their mansions can have some breathing room.
I could honestly go on about these instances forever, and I could even limit them to my experiences on that boring Friday that was yesterday, but I’m guessing you would be pretty bored by then. Now that I am back home, I look around at this disease of over-indulgence and I just wonder…why? What are we getting out of this? I don’t want to get too political here because that’s just not my point, but this country is in 16 trillion dollars of debt, 28 percent of people are obese (which is the second highest rate, behind Mexico, then all other countries), and we take up five percent of the world’s population but we use 20 percent of the world’s energy. I think it’s pretty obvious something is wrong here.
That’s not “reverse culture shock,” people. It’s more like having your eyes open, for the very first time.