Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock

I'm going to try, for the first and perhaps only time, to write a full blog post on my iPad. Lets see how it goes, and let me know if there are any egregious or hilarious autocorrect disasters in there. Also, about halfway through the whole thing clogged up and I'll have to finish on a regular computer.

Reverse culture shock is a common topic. Most people mention longer distances, different food and weather, quieter streets, less pollution, too many consumer options, tipping, high prices, eating at home more, unhealthier food and more directness as well as sarcasm as common reverse culture shock options. I've felt that too - go ahead and ask me how my digestive system is doing - but I've had some other issues too, good and bad.

Among the good (which generally needs little explanation): more variety of food, more diversity, not having to think of how to explain or ask for something in a second language, central heat, clothes that fit and don't look ridiculous on Westerners, Christmas for real, more options, road rules I understand, cooking in a good size kitchen.

But among the bad -

Saying "bless you" - People don't do this in Taiwan, and frankly, it makes sense that they don't. Despite being aware of the origin of this cultural tic, I'm not sure why Westerners still do it. I've stopped, even as I tell students it's something to remember to do when visiting the USA, and I am sure my fellow Americans think I'm quite rude for my utter silence in response to their sneezes.

Dry air, dry nose - I am used to central heat, and we've set up our lovely apartment with heaters in such a way that the effects are not so different from having central heating. What I did not expect was returning to a chronically dry nose and throat, to the point that I frequently wake up with nosebleeds.

Health care battles - My mom is sick, as regular readers know. In Taiwan she'd see her doctors, get chemo and other treatments, and not generally have to worry about how it would be paid for. In the USA, every new treatment, test or drug must be considered along with the question of whether insurance will pay, whether they are close to their annual cap and must wait critical weeks, in terms of health as well as money, for January, and how much will be paid out and when. Even with coverage, which they came close to not getting, their medical bills are in the "mortgage/med school" range, not the car payment range. And this is with "good" insurance! Which they pay for! Which they pay more than I pay for! It's ridiculous! It's inhumane! It's sickening, literally! Why do Americans put up with this bullshit? Why do they fight for their god-given right to keep such a bullshit system? Premiums that take a quarter of your pay, and you're not even guaranteed that sort of coverage, only to not even be sure that you'll be able to get a test - in time or at all - that could save your life, and the only other options if the company you are paying decides not to cover you are death or bankruptcy? Fuck this shit. I'm never coming home if this is what I'd face.

Ridiculous morning shows - The Onion's Today Now, a spoof of typically vapid morning shows, is more accurate than I remember. And yer I can't stop watching, especially when I wake early due to jet lag.

How do people, y'know, do anything? - Let's say you want to go out for a few drinks. Unless you live in a reasonably rural area, you can't go alone. Buses are rare if they exist, taxis cost a mint, and if you drink and can't drive home, and do take a taxi or get a ride, how do you get your car the next day? I don't get at all how this would work. If you go out with a significant other, only one of you can drink. That's no fun. So you go in a group or not at all? Ok, but what if you don't want to? I suppose the answer is "you don't need drinking to have fun", which I guess is true, but even a few glasses of wine at your anniversary dinner? How? Even in cities where public transit networks close early and you don't live close to nightlife hotspots and taxis are so expensive, how do people afford to go out? If your car needs work, how do you get around? How do you even get to the mechanic, or DMV, or driving school if you need your license, when none of it is accesssible by public transit? Does not compute.

Being unable to find what you want in a sea of options - Usually people complain about the opposite bit of reverse culture shock - too many options, too much stuff. But no, the other day we went to Walmart (ugggghhh) to get photos printed, and I thought it wouldn't be contributing too much to poverty-level wages and manipulating hiring hours to avoid paying benefits to buy some super balls for our cat (hard to find in Taiwan). We searched toys, party favors and pet super balls in the whole football stadium of a store. Walking between sections was like going to the gym (other than the gym and Walmart, how do people get exercise when there are no sidewalks?) and there were hundreds of other kinds of balls. There was an entire aisle of party favors, and an entire shelving system of piggy banks, along with a hundred different deodorants and a thousand soaps. But NO SUPERBALLS. Again, does not compute.

People around me actually understanding what I'm saying - "maybe you shouldn't say that in public, people can in fact understand you". Oh.

People around me actually caring about my religious views - what's with the sad looks when I say that no, I did not go to church on Sunday, no I neither wish to nor know how to say grace? How about the liquor laws that allow for no alcohol to be purchased in a store on Sunday, or after midnight and before 9am? Imagine if 7-11 in Taiwan did that - what would it even accomplish? And all that because Sunday is the "day of rest", the day you go to church and pretend you're a better person than you actually are - except not all of us believe that Sunday is a holy day, or that there are any holy days at all. In Taiwan nobody cares, and what I think is irrelevant because it's not an issue. Here, my views are still arguably irrelevant as I don't live in this country (but I do vote, so there's that), but people actually care that I'm a non-believer, and an outspoken one at that.


J said...

Hehe... figured you'd have a problem with the whole everyone around you understanding what you're saying thing. Happened to me too.

Thoth Harris said...

"People don't do this in Taiwan, and frankly, it makes sense that they don't."

Surely, you jest, woman! Wouldn't you rather say something on the order of bless you than saying, "Aiiiiiiyoooouuuuu..." everytime you sneeze? I know I certainly have gotten back into the habit of saying, "Bless you." Being a Canadian, I don't really associate it that much with religious connotations (although, I'm certainly aware of them, and I'm not offended by them, in the least - unlike you seem to be, bizarrely).
I am going to keep saying, "Excuse me." when I sneeze, and "Bless you." I hope my students start picking up my example, in English. It does seem more polite than going, "Ooooooo, you're so gross!"

Jenna Cody said...

Why do you assume I'm offended by it. I never said that, I said it made no sense.

Jenna Cody said...

As for what to say, we dont say anything about burps or coughs, why sneezes?