Reverse Layover Shock

11 May

I experienced many of the same feelings volunteering in Cambodia as I did on my exchange experience in Mexico. One of the main similarities was culture shock and reverse culture shock. When I first arrived into Mexico City I was overwhelmed and overtired. When I look back most of the people in the airport were actually quite friendly. But when I went to buy a phone so I could call my parents the girl at the counter was incredibly snobby and unhelpful. She refused to even try to understand my basic Spanish and made a joke about me to her friend in front of my face. At the time this was the biggest blow to me. For one, it made me incredibly insecure about my Spanish skills. I thought that if in the international airport of Mexico City a sales assistant didn’t speak English then what hope was there of anyone understanding me in the small city of Querétaro. However, as soon as I went to the bus station someone was more than willing to help me (Mexican men are more than happy to help out white foreign women!) and when I got the taxi from the bus station to my uni I had a great chat to the taxi driver in Spanglish and a bit of my confidence was restored.

Coming back to Australia I had reverse culture shock before I’d even got to Australia. Flying back after my amazing experience I had to go though LA airport (and I say HAD TO because anyone who’s flown through LAX knows it’s the worst airport ever). As I left México airport I chatted with people in the line and to airport staff. They were helpful, friendly and didn’t say anything about my bag being overweight. I helped the Mexicans next to me fill out their immigration forms on the plane while I reminisced about all the amazing experiences I had. Then I arrived at LAX and the nightmare began. When I tried to check in I was asked if I was given a green slip on arrival. I replied that I was not given one. The lady then explained I needed to go to immigration to get this green slip. I then went to go through custom. I was told I wasn’t allowed through without a boarding pass first. And so began my journey of walking around the maze of LAX trying to find a green slip. Nobody seemed to know what the rules about this green slip were. The icing on the LAX cake of crap was when a border security man screamed at me to put my flip flops through the x-ray. Being overtired and not aware that flip flops was an American word for thongs I apparently wore down his patience. I couldn’t help but think ‘If I got screamed at for not knowing one American word, imagine what happens to all the people who come through here who don’t speak English.’ I didn’t get that stupid green slip until I was just about to get on the plane and the hostess handed it to me in a blasé manner as if it didn’t matter at all. The whole time I was thinking ‘I just wanna go back to Mexico’. It’s strange how a culture so differnt from your own can become so much more comforting than one which is similar.

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