Last year, when I came home after a ten-month trip I found it super hard to adjust to my motherland after being away from her for so long. I had some serious reverse culture shock.
I’ve recently returned to England after seven months in Mexico and Colombia, and I was certain that I wouldn’t have the same problems as last year. I’d spent my final two weeks in Colombia with two friends from my home city so I was ready to speak English in a proper northern accent, I hadn’t been backpacking so I wasn’t in the habit of being perma-filthy, and I was actually making money so I wasn’t going to get mega stressed about spending four times as much as I was used to on beer.
But, from the second I exclaimed “how bloody much” at a train ticket office and said “Hola! ¿Cómo estás?” to an Uber driver, I realised that I’m as fucked now as I was last time around.
Here are the three things that I’m struggling with most now that I’m back in England.
In Colombia, paying for your stuff at a supermarket is a serious endurance test. It takes FOREVER. I have actually seen supermarket staff bring plastic chairs for their elderly customers to sit on while they wait in line for approximately 100 years. I don’t know how they make it take so long. Once I waited in line for 45 minutes to buy a bottle of rum, and there were only four people in front of me (they weren’t even doing big shops and only had a few items each). And, it’s not only supermarkets: a single ATM transaction takes a minimum of five minutes even if you concentrate and push all the buttons when you’re supposed to.
To make use of all this potentially wasted time, I got into the habit of using endless queues to get my thinking done. As a result, you will 100% find me staring into space during any short period of waiting. Because I am expecting it to be a long, Colombia-esque period of waiting. I will have put myself on hold because I think it’s one of those times where I’ll be waiting almost an hour to buy booze.
England’s efficiency now properly stresses me out because I simply can’t keep up. I panic at cash machines because the questions come at me so fast (I DON’T KNOW IF I WANT TO SEE MY BALANCE ON SCREEN, STOP PRESSURING ME), and I will never know where my purse is when I get to the checkout because it will have come upon me 30 minutes quicker than I’m used to.
On the theme of efficiency, I’m now slightly late for everything. I will burst through the door apologising for my tardiness, knowing full well that it’s empty and futile because I’ll be late for everything for the rest of my life. This sort of reverse culture shock lingers, I reckon.
It’s no secret that when I travel, I love to Tinder. If you’ve ever read my blog before you’ll know that half of my posts are on the subject of meeting strangers off the internet for wining and dining and snogging. Tinder in Colombia was an emotional rollercoaster and at times, a total disaster (I’ll be sharing more stories with you super soon). My Mexico success rates weren’t much higher to be fair, but my point here is that I was boss at getting Tinder dates and I went out with loads of people that were definitely a couple of degrees hotter than me.
But in England, I’m rubbish at Tinder. It turns out that having blue eyes and sorta light hair ain’t so special here. My accent isn’t cute to people who talk exactly like me, either. Basically, the second my plane touched down in England I went down a few points on the Richter scale of sexiness. Bugger.
Since I’ve been home I’ve matched with one man. His opening line? “I like your tongue”. Sorry, what? I actually scrolled through my profile pictures to try and figure out in which one of my photos I’d so carelessly revealed the inside of my mouth to him. I didn’t respond, because I wasn’t really sure how to.
Do you just say thank you to a tongue compliment? Let me know.
Fuck me, it’s cold in England. After complaining about sweating too much for the past few months, it’s an odd sensation to feel my bones freezing within my limbs. The thing is, it’s not even that cold for normal English folk. But, when I was home last year we were having a heat wave and I’ve skipped two winters, so I’m seriously out of practice when it comes to being freezing cold.
As a result, I cannot cope with the cold. I’ve complained loudly to everyone that will listen, I’ve been spending an abnormal amount of time in beds and baths (they are the only warm places left on this icy land we call Inglaterra), and I’ve taken to jumping up and down on the spot while shouting BRRRRRRR at every given opportunity.
Send help. Or electric blankets.
Bonus Entry: Toilets
I don’t know if you know this, but in Latin America (and many other parts of the world, I’m sure), you’re not allowed to throw toilet paper in the loo. Instead, it goes in a bin which you then have to empty very regularly to avoid the scent of waste wafting through your home. In Colombia, I once lived with three men in their 20s who didn’t fully grasp the basic formula of shitty tissues + lots of time = a really bad smell. It was so bad I moved out early and lost my deposit as a result (worth it).
But now I’m back in England, I cannot get used to throwing tissues in the bog. It feels naughty every time I do it, and I’ve definitively been guilty of tossing toilet paper in bins without thinking since I’ve been back (sorry to the lady who owns the Airbnb I stayed in last weekend). It was my first sign of reverse culture shock when, in the airport in London, I genuinely had a moment where I considered just putting toilet roll on the floor. There was no bin and my jet-lagged brain couldn’t fathom what else to do with it. Idiot.
My pal Paul made a LOLZ video on this topic if you want to know more about how to bathroom in South America (don’t worry, no actual pooping happens in the vid).
Have you experienced reverse culture shock? Where do you put your toilet paper? Let me know in the comments.
Wanna More About My Hatred of Change?
Here’s how much I struggled last time I came home
Here’s a story about the time I forgot how to backpack