Vanessa: Hi, I'm Vanessa from the website, SpeakEnglishWithVanessa.com.
Welcome to the sample conversation video lesson from the course The Fearless Fluency Club.
In this video, you'll see myself and my sister Cherise having a conversation, a natural,
real conversation about reverse culture shock.
If you don't know what this term is, watch the video.
If you'd like to hear natural conversations, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, and to analyze and
learn about the vocabulary, the grammar, the pronunciation that we use in this video, make
sure that you watch the other videos in this series.
That way you can more completely and fully understand the conversation and use the English
To join The Fearless Fluency Club, you can click the link here in the description or
up here at the top, the little I in the corner.
Thanks so much and let's get started.
I want to introduce you to my sister, Charisse.
Charisse: Hi everyone.
Vanessa: Today we're going to talk about a cool topic, reverse culture shock, but first
I want to introduce my sister, because you probably don't know her.
Can you tell us first a little bit about where you've lived or different countries you've
Cherise: Yeah, sure.
Well, I lived in France.
I lived in Argentina, and I recently returned from South Korea.
Vanessa: Cool, cool.
What were you doing in France?
Cherise: In France, I was an au pair.
In Argentina, I had multiple jobs actually.
First, I worked at a volunteer organization, then I taught English, every odd job.
Then, I moved directly to South Korea, where I also taught English.
Vanessa: Yeah, so you're also an English teacher or yo used to be an English teacher.
That's really cool.
We have something in common.
Yeah, we do.
Vanessa: The topic for today is reverse culture shock, and maybe some people know about what
culture shock is, but how would you describe culture shock?
Cherise: Reverse culture shock is when you go from the country you've been living in,
a foreign country, let's say, South Korea, you come back to your home country, and then
all of a sudden everything feels foreign, as if you're returning to a foreign country
and not your home country.
You don't connect with people.
You feel very different from everything around you.
Vanessa: Yeah, you feel kind of disconnected from what used to be really normal for you.
Vanessa: Yeah, and that's a terrible feeling because you feel like, "Oh, I should be going
I should be really comfortable," and then you feel really weird.
You don't expect it.
You hear of culture shock, but reverse culture shock is something you're not expecting.
Because you don't prepare for it, it hits you harder.
Vanessa: Yeah, that's a good point.
I don't know.
Have you ever felt culture shock, regular culture shock when you moved to Argentina
or France or Korea?
Did you feel like, "This is a new culture"?
Cherise: I definitely did to an extent, because you're preparing for it.
You know you're going to another country.
You're going to feel discomfort of some sort, and you're expecting to feel it, so I think
you prepare more for this culture shock, but reverse culture shock, you're not ready, you're
not prepared, and it just hits you.
Vanessa: Yeah, especially when you go to another country and you know you're going to live
there for a while, you probably do a lot of preparation.
I know when we moved to Korea, I was watching videos all the time about Korea and what's
life like, some of the language, some culture different stuff, but when we came back to
the US, I didn't think about that at all.
It's just like, "Oh, it's just the US.
It's my home country."
Cherise: Exactly, right.
It's definitely real.
It's definitely there and it's something that you don't think about.
Vanessa: Yeah, especially when you've been living away for a while.
How long were you living away from the US before you came back?
Cherise: Four years.
Vanessa: So Argentina, and then- Cherise: First Argentina for a year, then
South Korea for three years.
That's a long time.
Cherise: It had been a long time.
I hadn't made any trips, just to visit friends or family.
My friends weren't even American, I would say, so I wasn't even getting some culture
from my American friends.
Vanessa: Yeah, you're culturally disconnected.
Cherise: Most of my friends were foreign or from the country I was living in.
Vanessa: Yeah, so when you lived in Argentina and Korea, you didn't really have American
friends so much.
Cherise: There were a few, but they weren't the majority, or I wasn't even looking to
make those connections with American people.
Vanessa: Yeah, you wanted to make friends that are from the country.
Cherise: I wanted to, yeah, acclimate to the country and to the culture.
I think a lot of people, at least a lot of my students, if they're living in an English-speaking
country, that's a huge question, "How can I meet people who are from the local culture?"
But you did it.
What do you think helped you?
That's kind of off topic, but what do you think helped you to make friends with people
who weren't American?
Was it your jobs or you just learned the language?
Cherise: I think what helped was going to events that weren't for foreigners.
I went to those types of things where you know you're going to meet locals who live
there, and then just connecting with them and then a lot of times, they're very receptive.
They want to be your friend, too, and then that brings you into their friend group.
You mean dances or concerts, or what kind of events did you go to?
Cherise: Yeah, concerts, a lot of concerts in Argentina mainly, and then in South Korea,
I would say it was with my work because I was the only foreigner at the school I worked
Everyone I worked with was a local, was Korean, and that's how I connected with them.
Vanessa: Yeah, so if you wanted to learn more about the culture, they were already around
That's really cool.
I think it takes a lot of guts, though, because when you are the only person who's American
or from your country in an area, maybe you would be more likely to seclude yourself or
be like, "I feel really uncomfortable talking to them.
Do they want to talk to me?"
Cherise: Yeah, but they were very nice.
I never felt that awkward situation where maybe they don't want me here.
I felt very welcomed, and this is in South Korea.
Vanessa: In Argentina, was it different?
Cherise: No, it wasn't different.
This is coming from the experience of working in South Korea.
In Argentina, as well, but definitely in South Korea because I was the only foreign teacher,
but luckily I was with my husband, Toddo.
Vanessa: Yeah, so can you tell us a little bit about Toddo because Cherise's husband
also plays an important role in I think this culture shock or acclimating to a new culture,
so can you tell us about him?
His name's Toddo, so if you hear Toddo, it's not an English word you don't know.
It's just his name.
He's Colombian and we met in Argentina.
We got married in Argentina and then together we moved to South Korea, so he's been with
me through basically- Vanessa: A lot of changes.
Cherise: ... everywhere, in Argentina, in Korea, and then back to the US right now.
I think he's really helped me acclimate better just because I have somebody who's been with
me through all these experiences, and if no one else connects with me, I know he will
and I know he'll understand what I've been through because he's been through it, too,
and we can kind of hash it out together.
That has helped a lot.
Vanessa: I think that makes a big difference too because I know when I've traveled alone
somewhere and then I came back to the US, no one understood what I'd seen or the cool
experiences, so I felt really lonely.
There's no one I can talk to about this, and if I said, "Oh, I went here and I went there
and this was really cool, and oh, in Germany, it's like this," they'd just be like, "Oh,
that's really cool."
Maybe they thought it was cool, but they just can't get it.
Either I feel like I'm talking too much about Korea and they're like, "Oh shut up, please
Vanessa: That's hard because it's part of your past.
Cherise: I want someone to tell.
Yeah, I want someone to be able to appreciate or just even listen.
You've been somewhere and you want to be able to share what you've seen, what you've learned.
We're like grandmas.
We want to just tell our stories.
It's really helped having Toddo around and being able to connect with him stronger just
because we've been everywhere together.
Vanessa: Yeah, you guys have a closer bond because you've been through a lot.
Cherise: Right, right.
Vanessa: I think there's something ... Oh, what was I going to say?
There's something cool about, oh, you guys' relationship that we haven't mentioned yet,
that part of that reverse culture shock that we'll talk about in just a second is a language
thing, going from not being in an English speaking country to being in the US, where
there's English everywhere.
You speak Spanish, so can you tell us a little bit about your language experience with him?
I think this is so cool.
Cherise: Okay, sure.
Well, before I was going to Argentina because I wanted to learn Spanish, and I met Toddo.
Well, when we met, we didn't speak Spanish immediately together.
We spoke English.
He also speaks perfect English, but then as time grew on I was getting more like, "I really
want to learn Spanish, and let's speak Spanish together," which is actually really hard,
especially with a couple, with a pair to be like, "Okay, we're going to speak only"-
Vanessa: And change languages in the middle of your relationship.
Cherise: Exactly, yeah, but we somehow managed to do that somewhat successfully I would say.
I would speak Spanish almost I would say 90% of the time.
Vanessa: That's awesome.
Cherise: Which is really good.
It's helped me a lot.
It's helped our relationship.
I don't know why.
That's part of his native language though, so maybe for him too, he can connect better.
Cherise: I agree.
I think it has to do something with that.
All around, it's been great, so yeah.
Vanessa: That's cool that you have that connection, but coming back to the US, if you didn't want
to speak English, you could speak Spanish together.
Oh yeah, I didn't mention that.
When we came back to the US, I felt like everyone was listening to my conversations and it was
I didn't want to speak out loud because I thought, "Everyone's listening to me."
Vanessa: Yeah, that's a really weird feeling.
Cherise: We would speak in Spanish everywhere, but then again also, there's a lot of people
who speak Spanish, so it doesn't work all the time.
Vanessa: Kind of an illusion.
Cherise: You feel like you're speaking a secret language.
I feel like that's a good segue to the next thing of when have you experienced reverse
Coming back from the Argentina Korea experience to the US, did you experience any of that?
I felt a longing for the Argentinian lifestyle I had when I was in Korea for at least a few
months, like, "Oh, we can just go out to all these restaurants and they have a lot more
varieties of food," so that was hard.
Maybe public transportation, although Korea also has fantastic public transportation.
It just stops at a certain time so you have to know what your-
Vanessa: Oh, Argentinian transportation went longer?
Cherise: It's all night, all day, 24/7.
Cherise: You don't have to think, "Okay, I've got to go home now."
Cherise: There were some things that I missed about Argentinian life that-
Vanessa: Weren't in Korea.
Cherise: Yeah, that didn't exist in Korea, and also, at least in Argentina, I understood
what people were saying and I could communicate.
Even though it wasn't my first language, at least I could communicate with people.
Vanessa: That makes a huge difference, though, connecting with the culture, if you can understand
Cherise: I know.
It opened a lot of doors.
When I went to Korea, I felt very closed.
I couldn't communicate with anyone.
I didn't really know what was going on.
There was a lot of cultural differences, too.
Eventually, you adapt to any circumstance.
I was able to adapt to living in Korea, and then-
Vanessa: You probably learned some of the language, enough to read or enough to minimally
Cherise: Right, I could read, and also, yes, communicate with the students, communicate
with my coworkers.
Sometimes some of them spoke English.
Anyway, when I went from Korea to the US, there was another level of culture shock just
because America was my home country and then all of a sudden, I felt like a foreigner in
my own country.
Vanessa: That's a really weird feeling.
Cherise: I still feel that way to an extent, not as strongly as when I first arrived.
Vanessa: Yeah, and how long have you been back now?
Sorry to interrupt you.
Cherise: I think it's been four months.
Vanessa: Four months.
That's not long.
Cherise: I came in March 1st of 2016.
Vanessa: Yeah, March, April, May, June, yeah, about four months.
It's still fresh.
Cherise: Yeah, it's still fresh, but it was definitely hard the first month.
What did you experience?
Tell us about that first month, if you don't mind rehashing those deep days.
I'm trying to think of some very good examples.
Well, when I first arrived, I arrived in Jackson Hartfield Airport, which is in Atlanta, which
is one of the biggest airports.
I just remember arriving there, and all of a sudden hearing everyone speaking English
and just the interactions between the workers in the airport and the interactions with them
with me and Toddo, and it just felt so strange.
I don't know how to explain it.
That's the thing about reverse culture shock.
Vanessa: Yeah, it's just a strange feeling.
Cherise: You can't explain it unless you've experienced it, and maybe you can prepare
for it, but some other examples, I remember going to get a cell phone in the US.
I wasn't prepared for so much social interaction.
Vanessa: In English, or just- Cherise: In English.
I think that's what it was.
There's so many people and I kept feeling like people were listening to me or watching
me strangely because in Korea, people would look at me at least, at least notice, "There's
Vanessa: Because you're not Korean.
Cherise: Right, and so I guess I assumed that people were still doing that, although now
I'm not standing out as a foreigner, but I still felt like these eyes were watching me.
It just was a strange moment of life.
You realize you do look like other people here.
I realized I'm not actually standing out like I was in Korea.
Vanessa: You're not special anymore.
Cherise: Not special.
Vanessa: Even though that's something negative, I think reverse culture shock in general is
something negative, for me, it's nit-picking small things about American culture because
that's our home culture that I didn't nit-pick about before.
A big thing that got me, I don't know why this was a big deal, but for some reason when
I came back from France, living in France for a year, for some reason it really bothered
me that people mowed their lawns.
When I saw people mowing their lawns, it's such a waste.
Why don't you just grow something else or why don't we have something else here?
Why are you mowing a lawn, or why are you using 100 grocery bags?
Just bring your own bag.
Don't use these plastic bags.
Cherise: That's something I don't understand, either.
It's just such a small thing that shouldn't bother me and I feel like I'm generally easygoing
or little things don't bother me like that, but I think it was reverse culture shock,
that comparing it to good things from the culture that I came from and being like, "Why
is my culture like this?
Ugh," so pissed off about it.
Cherise: Right, and you realize, well, they don't know that maybe it's better to bring
your own bag, bring a little cart.
It just isn't part of the American culture at this point.
Cherise: Another thing about grocery stores is there are so many options.
I realized, "This is why we have a problem with obesity maybe."
It could be the fact that you have 100 different types of cereal to choose from, or I don't
know how many types of cereal there are.
Cherise: Too many.
I want to buy milk.
Why do I have to choose from 20 different types of milk?
Why are there so many options?
There shouldn't ... I don't know.
Vanessa: It's overwhelming.
Today we went to the store to look at coconut oil, and it's a small grocery store and there's
what, like 30 choices, 20 choices?
Cherise: Americans have a lot of options.
A lot of countries don't have that many options to choose from.
In a way, it's neither here nor there, but it's one of those things that when you come
back to your own culture and see that, you can feel overwhelmed.
I think that's a sign of reverse culture shock is being overwhelmed by something you thought
would be normal, like going to the grocery store, something really normal.
Cherise: Something you do all the time, and all of a sudden, it's something that is a
Vanessa: Yeah, yeah.
Cherise: Choosing what you want to eat.
Do you think that reverse culture shock is avoidable?
Is it possible to make it any better than it is?
This could apply to culture shock, too, but like we already said, I think we kind of prepare
for culture shock.
When you go to a foreign country, you prepare more, so reverse culture shock-
Cherise: Right, you're saying, "I don't need to prepare.
I'm going back to my home country."
I think there are certain things you can do to prepare for it.
I don't think you can completely avoid it, but at least know that these things are going
to be issues for me, so what can I do to ease the difficulty?
For example, public transportation in Korea is fantastic.
I never drove a car.
I biked, I took the bus or I took the subway.
I thought for me, it's going to be very important to live somewhere and be able to either walk,
bike, or drive a car minimally.
Oh, that sounds a lot like me.
Cherise: Buying a car, you have to get a car if you're in the US.
Vanessa: Unless you live downtown New York, but that's not going to be many people.
Vanessa: Unless you're a millionaire.
Cherise: I need to realize that this is going to be a problem for me and prepare for it
as best I can, although I'm still going to have to drive, I'm still going to have to
face this difficulty, you could say.
You're still going to have to do something you don't want to do.
Cherise: Right, that I'm not comfortable or used to doing, but it is the only way.
I guess you can prepare for it, but you can't avoid it.
I think for me coming back to the US, I had a lot of fears.
I don't think if they were irrational or not, but I knew that I had a great time living
abroad and in France and in Europe and in Korea.
It was so fun and really enjoyable.
Every day there's something different and new, and then coming back to the US, a big
thing was, is every day just going to be a daily routine?
Am I just going to feel like there's not new surprises around every corner?
When you're abroad, even if you're just traveling or visiting, you find a new market around
the corner or there's someone playing street music or just fun little things.
Cherise: There's always something new, right.
Vanessa: Yeah, so that was a big deal for us is finding somewhere where there is new
stuff going on or there's maybe some diversity or some new cultures or something more than
just a boxed lifestyle where you have franchises and suburban lifestyle.
You've got some city life.
I think that would be very difficult to go from living in Korea to going and living in
suburbia, where you have to drive 20 minutes just to go to the supermarket and there's
nothing really going on around where you're living.
That would be really hard.
I think that's something that was a priority for us, it seems like for you guys, too-
Cherise: Right, definitely.
Vanessa: Live close to the city.
I think I realized I like living in bigger cities and it's going to be really difficult
to go and live in the countryside or live in a little neighborhood way far away from
Maybe that's something that could happen in the future.
I don't know.
I would like to have a garden or like to live ... It's maybe more idealistic, but at the
moment, it's not really something that I want, so maybe in the future, but I think that's
an important point, knowing what you want.
Everyone wants something different.
They have their own ... What's important to you is different than what's important to
me, than somebody else, to know what you want.
Vanessa: And taking some time to analyze that, like, "Oh, what do I like about living where
I'm living now?"
In Korea, you really liked transportation, so how can I make that happen in my home country?
For me, I liked having little surprises around every corner.
It's not going to be exactly the same.
It's not a foreign country, but how can I make that happen somehow or find the right
Vanessa: At least for Americans, I don't know, maybe it's different for other countries,
but for us, it's not a big deal if you don't go back and live in your hometown.
You can go [crosstalk 00:21:22].
Vanessa: I know some people, at least some people I've talked to who aren't American,
they're really surprised that maybe you've lived in California, like Dan, who's my husband.
Maybe some of you have met him.
Dan lived in California, then Colorado, then Pennsylvania, then he went to school in Tennessee.
That's all over the US, east, west, middle, south, everywhere, and it's totally normal.
Most people have lived in several places.
Even for us, we lived in the north and then the south and we have roots in both places.
Cherise: Yeah, so I feel like it's hard to come back and feel super connected immediately.
That's not going to happen.
Vanessa: Yeah, but that's okay.
I think knowing about it, that's probably the biggest thing to avoid it is being knowledgeable
that you might feel shocked about it and how to avoid that, or just have more patience
You know it's going to get better.
You'll feel more connected and integrated as time goes on.
Vanessa: Yeah, or be more patient with your partner.
If I was upset at Dan about something, I'd be like, "Wait, this is probably just because
I shouldn't get frustrated or snippy about little things because I'm adjusting, so sorry
to put this on you."
Cherise: At least you realize it.
Vanessa: Yeah, and you're not perfect, but I think that's something that just being aware
of it is a big deal.
Thanks so much for talking about reverse culture shock.
Vanessa: Thanks everyone for watching this conversation with Cherise, my sister.
If you'd like to see any more conversations with her in the future, let us know.
Vanessa: Thanks so much for watching this sample conversation lesson for The Fearless
I hope you learned something new and if we were speaking too quickly, if there's some
grammar you would like to learn about, some vocabulary or pronunciation you want to improve
for yourself so that you can use it, I recommend watching the other videos in this series,
the sample videos for the course, The Fearless Fluency Club.
If this is a good fit for you, I recommend joining our club, where you can get lesson
sets like this every month.
You can click here to join the club.
Click up here.
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