Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock

Many people talk of the culture shock experienced on arriving back in the west after visiting a developing nation. I guess after 4 trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo I should be used to the experience. But there are some things that still surprise me.

Tarmac – that little appreciated invention that turns a spine-jarring, body-jolting, dust-covering experience into silky smooth transportation heaven. I’ll never complain about Liverpool roads again!

Flush toilets – O the joy of sitting in comfort with the opportunity to contemplate life instead of performing a circus juggling/ acrobatic/ contortionist trick squatting on dodgy faeces strewn boards aiming towards a hole you can’t actually see, whilst fighting off a demonic hoard of filthy contaminated flies.

Petrol filling stations – a relatively well ordered experience of fuel acquisition that bears no comparison to the roadside booths selling individual bottles of petrol in recycled 1 litre plastic bottles.

Hot water – that comes out of a tap, instantly, instead of having to have been heated over on open fire for an age in the early hours of the morning to produce a bowl of luke-warm water to wash in. This however was still infinitely better than the cold shower option that many of the team took (God bless them).

Electricity – a much taken for granted power that comes out of those small white sockets in your skirting boards. It allows phones to be recharged, books to be read in the evening, and a myriad of appliances to be run. Living with the cycle of daylight does have its merits, but not when so much of life happens after dark.

Not all the shock however is at the expense of the developing nation.

Road rage – not a great advert for our sophisticated society compared with the slow pace of walking everywhere and having time for everybody.

Sullen rebellious ungrateful children – are no match for the joy-filled simple lifestyle of the children we met. A beat up old ball of string used as a football gives more fun than the most expensive PlayStation.

Hidden away embarrassing elderly relatives – OK maybe they don’t often live long enough to grow that old in developing nations (does old age really have that much going for it?), but those who do are revered, honoured and respected in their communities and cared for at home. They still have a vital role in running the home or helping with childcare.

Multitasking – a modern invention of the west, compared with the joy of doing and finishing one thing at a time, minimising stress and maximising the feeling of a job well done.

I’m grateful for the many advantages of living where I do, but would love us to also learn from what the developing nations have preserved and we have lost. What do you think?

This entry was posted by nic on Monday, March 26th, 2012 at 10:10 am and is filed under Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. mark polden says:

    I hear what you are saying Nic, my wife and I often feel like life would be happier and we would be different people if we woke up every morning with the heat of the sun of our faces and life were less complicated. I will be happy whenever the Lord takes me but certainly feel that I would be happier if the Lord took me before I am incapable of serving him physically

  2. nic harding says:

    I know what you mean Mark!

  3. Joel says:

    Brought back memories of circling over London coming back from Kenya, looking down on all the houses with gardens and swimming pools. Felt truly sick at the sight and repulsed by the excess.

    Whenever we feel like we don’t have enough….. Always worth a visit to
    Type in your salary and it will tell you how blessed we really are!

  4. phil says:

    very interesting Nic
    Have you ever read Camus’ thoughts on “freedom of privation”?

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