USA Counter-Culture Shock

Even though I didn’t have much of a culture shock when I came to Korea, I was worried about ‘reverse culture shock’. Before my vacation to Texas, I tried to mentally prepare myself. Surprisingly, I actually didn’t encounter too many things that ‘shocked’ me. Maybe a year and a half is too short of a time to experience reverse culture shock. Or maybe spending only 9 days in the States is too short of a time. Or maybe I’m just really open-minded(?) and traveling to other countries since I’ve been in Korea have been far more ‘shocking’ than USA. Whatever the reason, I didn’t experience all that much culture shock. That said, I was curious about things would give me ‘counter culture shock’.

I know most people go through “OMG Americans are so big!” so I tried to get that thoroughly ingrained into my mind before I went. I was only surprised at seeing my sister’s size. (She has few full-body pics on facebook so I was unprepared.) Other than her, no other ‘big’ people really stood out to me…except for the rare person that was HUGE (but I know I would have had the same reaction before Korea). For the first time in a few years, I got to feel ‘small’ again. LOL

Actually, what caught me the most off-guard were all the people with tattoos. One of my friends is a tattoo artist, and I have many friends and family with multiple tattoos. Even my best female Korean friend has two tattoos. I guess I forgot just how visible and colorful tattoos are worn in America. At the airports and in stores, I found my eyes wandering to people with tattoos. Other than that, nothing else really stood out to me.

From Flickr. I’ve always been interested in getting a tattoo myself…I love this, but it’s a tad too big for me

First thing to stand out were the streets. There are so few pedestrians!!  Also, there is a larger variety cars-and cars that I NEVER see in Korea.

From Flickr: a good old Mustang

In Korea, I get stared/openly gawked at by many Koreans daily. If there’s an inter-racial couple, the looks practically double. In America, it felt good to be away from all that. (I can’t stress how refreshing it was to be in a culture that accepts mixed relationships.)

In Korea, despite all the people openly gawking, no one really strikes up random conversations with me. I’ve had a few people approach me from behind, thinking that I’m Korean, and then get very embarrassed when they see I’m a foreigner. (The only exception to the no-conversation is in some stores where I get followed around, stalker-like by an employee—their idea of customer service.) So, in America, I enjoyed the hands-off approach in customer service. However, it’s interesting that customers will talk to each other…this is UNSEEN in Korea.

I used to work in retail, and I’d either do it myself or hear other customers chatting with each other about various products. Anyway, I do miss that small talk/random advice! On a side note, I, surprisingly, got compliments about my shoes from three strangers while I was out shopping. This, I know is pretty rare-even in America. I guess my Korean shoes really stood out. ^^

I wore them with the dress/outfit at the mall

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2 comments

  1. When I went home for a visit after living in Hong Kong for a year I felt like customer service people talked to me all the time! In HK people are often self conscious about their English, so I’ve gotten used to simply paying and saying ‘thank you’ and that’s it. Every time someone at home commented on the weather or asked what I was up to for the afternoon I did a double take. It sounds like you had a great visit!

    1. Yeah in Korea, they either don’t talk to me (but follow me around) OR they test their limited English skills (while stalking). Only in grocery stores and super-marts am I left alone. (Well even then, I’m still watched out of curiosity but at least they’re not attached to my hip).

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