Reverse Culture Shock

To be immersed in a different culture that has limited access to technology takes some getting used to.  During our initial travels in 1997/98 we spent three months in India and Nepal which meant that we were essentially cut off from the UK, with no access to modern (by the standard of the day) technologies.  It is difficult now to really remember what it was like given that even cars were not a common sight on the roads.  However, after a week or so we settled down into the new order of life really without a second thought to the technology and life that we had left behind.

What surprised us the most was the concept of reverse culture shock – what it felt like to suddenly be immersed back into a culture where technology is present. This happened for the first time when we entered Bangkok and in particular during the taxi ride from the airport into the city centre.  My journal entry for the time read “The taxi ride was a bit of a shock as we started to experience what reverse culture shock was. For starters we were on a triple carriageway, with cars that definitely drove on the left. The cars had suspension and were travelling at 110km/hr which seemed absolutely normal again. I cannot imagine anything in Mumbai managing to get anywhere near this sort of speed. The car showrooms along the way included BMW, Volvo, Toyota etc. etc. indicating that Bangkok was a more modern city than any we had seen in India. At the hotel everything was sorted out efficiently and we were shown our room down a long curved corridor. The room was very nice: four beds, carpet, air conditioning, BBC World, shower WITH shower curtain, hot water, loo paper: the list goes on. A far more pleasant experience than our first night in Mumbai”.

While I probably never will experience this degree of reverse culture shock again I have on many occasions felt a degree of sadness to be heading back into the modern world again.  Spending long periods of time away out in the wilderness, be it trekking in the mountains or driving and camping across the Australian outback, brings out the simple pleasures of life.  I can remember getting to the east coast of Australia and feeling a sense of disappointment that we were ‘back in civilisation’.  This does not mean that I have any desire to pack it all in and become a real nomad but that there is something compelling about getting way from modern life, at least for short periods of time.

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