The tourists are HERE! A quick look on Instagram will confirm this in an instant, no pun intended. Taking a gap year is a rite of passage for many Western (and increasingly so, Eastern) students. The Aussie bartender, away in the UK has become a cliche. Throughout India you’ll find back bending yoga students of all colours, shapes and sizes. It’s common to see Canucks constantly clicking cameras in exotic locations. And, how is it I ask you, that Kiwis seem to seep out of the cracks of pubs worldwide at the first clap of the Haka every time the All Blacks take the field? Travelling and immersing yourself in a foreign culture is part of the joys of life, but this can make for a hard landing on your arrival home. Reverse culture shock is real, beware!
My family and friends have inherited a Eurocentric culture, a culture that is at polar opposite to the places I like to explore. Being alwaysonholidays it can be confronting to realise the habits you’ve picked up conflict with home norms.
Sitting inside my family abode, the Asian habit of kampai-ing drinks was seen as a little quirk, but when I continued by tasting food from every plate on the table, gasps were heard. The whole idea of the rigid three course meal threw my eating habits right off course, so I scooped in some ice-cream in the kitchen, pretending to check on the roast. And how was I to realise the consume wasn’t a finger bowl? The meal was finished off with an appreciative belch that in hindsight was best reserved for a Beijing Buffett. On leaving I gave the host a small gift of fruit, I know I will receive an invite back, it’s Christmas soon.
Unable to decipher their true meaning, I’m prone to giving romantic interpretations to the foreign conversations around me whilst on the road. A raised French voice, I imagine, is forced from the fallout of a ménage a trois, a rolling Spanish lisp an accurate account of a bullfight, a loud Greek is delivering an empathetic speech for freedom and democracy. But, back home, on the train, around the streets of my childhood, over coffee at the local cafe, all I hear and comprehend fully is the complaints about bosses, the bad reviews of bands I don’t know or more common than not, loud English profanities better left unsaid. It’s true sometimes that ignorance is bliss.
It’s me that’s changing, not you. My blue eyes gets me photographed throughout China, have helped land a plum role on Vietnamese TV and attracted many a lush look in Peru. But I can’t complain, for the traffic is orderly and easily navigated on my way to a long overdue catch up with my high school friends. And there will be no surprises in the cocktails and drinks that will flow. However, I’m never home long before I start screaming, ‘Hey, I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!”.