Reverse Culture Shock (& Things to do in Seattle!)


After being in Asia for just under a year, I finally went back to the US earlier this year. It’s always interesting when you go return to your home country after being gone for awhile. It’s easy to imagine your return as a grand triumphant return, where people change their schedules to see you, listen to your stories late into the night, and laugh and smile at all the right points…

IMG_1509The fact is, returning home from an extended absence rarely plays out how you think it will. I imagined my return to Seattle being something like Napoleon’s triumphant return into Rome … at least flower petals and trumpets or something. I mean, come on … I have been eeking out a living in China for almost a year … I’ve seen places that most people never get to … I learned how to count to ten in 6 languages! And … and … wait, why does no one seem to care…

Agh, I’m not sure what the word is, but I have heard the term Reverse Culture Shock  thrown around from time to time. That moment when you get back to your oh-so-familiar home and for some reason feel out of place. So if you find yourself back home after traveling the world, and everything isn’t as you imagined … perhaps you can relate to some of these symptoms…

The Symptoms of Reverse Culture Shock:

1. Nothing Changed

While you were off gallivanting through Europe and buying street food in SE Asia, the rest of your friends and family were back home doing the exact same thing they were doing when you left. Just because you figured out how to escape the wheel of life for awhile, doesn’t mean that everyone back home somehow had a life changing experience as well.

The rush hour traffic will still be there; the McDonalds drive thru is still backed out to the street; your family/friends are still in the same routine they have always been in; Movie night is still friday and Dinner night is still Saturday; the world is still going crazy over pop star drama, the queen, and the newest movie; Politics are still screwed up; the news is still biased. You may have changed, but nothing else did.

2. No one can relate

Everyone will be very excited to see you and many will start to ask about how your travels went. But the cold truth of the matter is that no one cares about your trip because they can not relate to your experience. To most people, Europe is still “that place on the other side of the ocean’ … and “Visiting Asia would be awesome because I really like the Chinese restaurant down the street.”

No one cares about….

–  “That one time in Rome when you missed your train because Sally got too drunk and left her passport at the bar.”
–  “That time when you met up with the coolest Germans EVER and had conversations about culture, history, and politics in Berlin until 3am.”
–  “That instant when you knew everything was going to be okay after an all night street party, while staring at a sunrise in Palermo.”

These are things that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Unless you are an exceptional story teller though, you will probably never portray just how much meaning those stories have to you.

3. Am I rubbing it in?

Obviously, most people would rather travel than stay at home, work, get stuck in a routine, finish school, raise the kids, etc. At some point, if you are still talking about how great YOUR experience was on the other side of the world, you will start to notice that others will care less and less about your stories. While you were off finding yourself, most people were back home trying to stay optimistic and trudge through the daily grind.

Okay, enough of that … I actually had a blast when I went back home in Seattle! I fixed up a couple things at my rental house in Tacoma, helped a friend with one of his rentals, was in another friends’ wedding, and took a ferry around Lake Washington… All in all, it was a great 10 days back home!


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Top 5 Things to do in Seattle:

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Gum Wall

1. Pike’s Place (Fisherman’s Wharf)
Pikes Place is pretty much the most famous thing to see in Seattle. This is where you can see the fisherman throwing fish through the air and the infamous Gum Wall! Check it out … it is quite a happening place!

2. Beer and Coffee
Washington is famous for draft beers and coffee (the way it should be). A famous beer house in Seattle is Uber Tavern (rated well on Yelp); and here is a list of the 15 Best Coffee Shops.

3. Game Works

Game Works probably isn’t at the top of your list yet … but it should be! It is a massive arcade/bar for adults… and it’s in downtown Seattle! They have bowling, air hockey, pool, beer and everything else that makes arcades cool.

4. Seattle Cruise Tour



I think a Seattle Cruise is the best way to really see the area. Many of the boat cruises will show you Bill Gates’ house, Puget Sound, and of course the awesome Seattle Skyline. Click the link above to check out a few of the options.

5. Space Needle

IMG_4398Yeah, I made it #5 … I don’t even care. The Space Needle is a cool building, but not that cool… if you want to pay a ridiculous amount of money to eat at the top then go for it. I would suggest hanging out in one of the bars or restaurants at the base of it, taking a picture and moving on. You can pay to just go up it too, and it obviously has a pretty decent view; but it just seems like a waste of money to me …

2 thoughts on “Reverse Culture Shock (& Things to do in Seattle!)

  1. Uncle Joe

    Very interesting article. Everyone has a different reality. Sometimes people can relate to our own reality. Others can not. I knew a historian who said that when you visit a place that has history or a past that we can connect to, he called this “Power of Place”. It’s a matter of one “getting it” or not. Not all can or are willing to. Colin Fletcher is one of my favorite back packer writers and he said that people, just before they die, may discover that they have been dead for a long, long time.

    • Dan Post author

      That’s an interesting way of looking at it … some people will be able to relate and others just won’t. I love that term, “Power of Place” … that makes perfect sense! I really need to read more about Colin Fletcher; he is exceptional at creating a feeling of a place through words. I am reading “Into the Wild” right now (took me way to long to finally get to it) and it also has an interesting perspective. Where Colin Fletcher seems to always be going somewhere; Chris McCandless appears to have been running… both experienced similar “Power of Now” moments though. I like that quote about possibly discovering being dead for a long time … that’s good inspiration to go out and tackle life now! Thanks for the comment … it’s awesome to hear from you! (We should Skype sometime)


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