Traveling Home & Reverse Culture Shock

August 29, 2019
• by
Elizabeth Fedde

As it always is when you leave a place you’ve grown attached to, saying goodbye to Bangkok was bittersweet. On the last day of my internship at Gulf, my co-workers took me to a very Thai lunch and made sure I had all my favorite spicy foods. A fun fact I learned in Thailand is that I handle spice very well and they would all watch in awe as the “farang” ate all the spiciest foods. I got emotional leaving my Gulf family behind (especially my supervisor, Bubby), but we’re able to stay in touch via a messaging app called Line! 

During my last week it dawned on me how many of the things that had been so new at the beginning of the summer had become my new normal and soon I would not be experiencing most of these things in my daily life back in California. Things like the daily fruit I bought on my walk to work, the people I walked by every day on my way home, and the $1 boba teas. It truly is a different experience when you stay in a foreign country for an extended period of time and engage in their daily life in the business and social context rather than just being a tourist and traveling through. Don’t get me wrong, I did plenty of touristy things, but being in Bangkok for ten whole weeks gave me the opportunity to also experience the city a little bit more like a local. 

I am the type of person who would prefer to backpack for three months over living in a city as busy and large as Bangkok, but I really grew to love the city and all the people and culture that makes it unique, despite the traffic. My favorite evening was when I rode the BTS Skytrain to the Chao Phraya River and took a solo sunset boat ride after a day in the office, which reminded me that even within a city like Bangkok, you can experience some peace and natural beauty. I feel so grateful that this summer opened my eyes to a part of the world that I had only seen in photos and all of the new perspectives I gained from it. I’ve been reflecting a lot during this past week and working on putting all I learned and experienced into words so that I can accurately share what a life-changing summer this was for me. 

I definitely experienced culture shock when I arrived in Thailand, and after being home in California for a couple weeks, I think it’s safe to say that reverse culture shock is real! I got so used to my daily routine, not being able to understand the language being spoken around me, the rain and humidity, paying two dollars for a full meal, insane motorbikers, and just living in a big city. It was wonderful to relax in the comfort of my own home for a few days to readjust, fight the jetlag, and indulge in some of the foods I had missed. When I drove back to USC to begin my junior year, I took the route through downtown LA and saw it in a very different way after living in a different city all summer. One of the things I enjoyed most about Bangkok was all of its interesting markets, and I figured that something like them must exist in LA so I took it upon myself to find one! It didn’t take much, I found myself at the LA wholesale flower market during my first weekend back. Now that I’m readjusted to life in the States, my summer in Thailand is beginning to feel like a dream. I love having the chance to tell my friends about my experiences because I want everyone to know how awesome Southeast Asia is and everytime I talk about my summer, it reminds my just how much I experienced and learned.  Moral of the story: If you ever have the chance to do an internship abroad, take it!