Reverse Culture shock: what Paris’ edges are telling me

Our family has been living in South East Asia for almost 7 years, and each time we travel back to France, I realize how our environment has been shaping my spirits:

Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia have a round kind of alphabet, nothing sharp like our A, V, Z or W. There is something smooth in the sweet fragrances of the incense sticks in the streets, the welcoming smiles shining all around you, the gentle ways of the Buddha statues. There is something peaceful in the slow walks of the monks, in their alm bowl, in the way people are bowing to them..

It always takes me a few days to adjust to the Parisian path. At first, in spite of all the excitement to be back “home”, I always feel a bit “pressured” by the environment.


It’s all about edges: the shapes of the buildings, the windows, the monuments and even the shoes of the Parisians! All buildings are properly aligned and come with an unique number (and no, you can not buy the number you want because this one is supposed to be your lucky one). I see Paris’ architecture is a tribute to the Age of Enlightenment, in which cultural and intellectual forces in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism.

Nothing better or worse, just different and that’s what I love about traveling: feeling disorientated and removed from my comfort zone.

It might be true that wherever you go becomes a part of you, somehow…

(Photo101: on Edges and Alignment)


30 thoughts on “Reverse Culture shock: what Paris’ edges are telling me

  1. Thoughtful post, Estelea! I feel some shock (or excitement) as well when I visit my home country or other part of South America. I am more sensible to how the people interact, level of voice, number of persons on the streets, etc. It is good to change our references from time to time. You have said it all with this: “Nothing better or worse, just different and that’s what I love about traveling: feeling disorientated and removed from my comfort zone.” Thanks so much for another very interesting subject! You can wear so many different hats! And you wear them so well! Best to you and your beautiful family! Take care, my dear friend! 🙂

    1. You are so right to mention the volume too 🙂 Each time we travel to Switzerland, I feel I am deaf. It’s too quiet, especially coming from the Philippines. Shops close so early, it’s like if those people were living on “Mute” 😉
      Thankfully we have our precious Attilas to remind us that “mute” is definitely not an option in our the family !

      I totally agree with the way people interact too.In Asia, always feel very uncomfortable when someone I don’t really know hugs or kisses me on the cheek to say hi. Although I find it totally normal back home.

      That’s another thing I really appreciate about traveling too: it really opens your mind and sense of respect. How can you ever judge a foreigner when you are aware of his culture, where he’s coming from and all our cultural differences? Our world is so rich, there is so much to learn from each other, don’t you think?
      Thanks so much for your kind comments my dear, and all the very best to you and yours !
      Big virtual hug from flooded Cebu 😛

      1. Your writing is so rich, Estelea! I am always impressed with your thoughts, reasoning, and the balance of your considerations. Like the Rabbi says in our Temple, you see God everywhere (in humans, animals, nature, day, night, etc.) Yes, we have to respect the culture differences and learn from each different perspective. Be careful with the flooding and stay safe. Big hugs to you, Mr. and Ms. Attila, and Mr. Attila Sr.! You are SUPER!!!

      2. My dear, you are way too kind but I take all those beautiful compliments with so much pride and pleasure 🙂 heartfelt thanks, you re the mega super one – as my daughter says 😉

  2. You are so right-said! I have not a very big experience in traveling, but when I do have an occasion it is always like looking at this world from the other angle, everything is so different. Every country has its own color and smell. I have been to Paris only once and I was very impressed and very disappointed as well because I was lost and could not find the way simply because French people refused to talk in English, I hardly know French, so It was a huge problem…

    1. Oups, sorry about your bad experience with Parisians 😦 give us a second chance the day we are settling back in Europe, I m sure I can make it better 😉 unfortunately The bad reputation of Parisians is not a legend.. So many of my foreign friends told me “we loved everything in Paris! Except the Parisians”… That’s why Aug is one of the best time to visit the capital, most of the Parisians are spending their holidays out of town ! X

      1. Thank you, my Friend, I’d love to come back to Paris and give it a second chance, of course, I remember a lot of positive about this city, for example, a very confusing metro, huge amount of lines and changes….i am joking now, I love Paris, it’s a really stylish city and I can explore it endlessly…I do hope to visit it again one day and meet you, real Parisian! Thank you very much for your advice!

  3. Great post, it’s always a bit of a shock when visiting home. Hearing the familiar accents and trying to get up to speed with friends, family and changes to the hometown takes a bit but is always enjoyable.

    1. You re right, it does take a bit of time ! I don’t know about you, but I always have the feeling that life in my hometown has stopped the day I left, and that I ll find everything the exact same way I left it. I know it’s weird but I m always a bit shocked at first when I realize that things change, stories evolve and some people are even getting older! It takes a few “apero” and glasses of French

    2. French wine to fine tune it all … then the honeymoon starts again and It feels good to be back (at least for holidays, when you only have the best of everything 😉

  4. What a great reminder that we feed our sensibilities through unconscious ways as well, and so very astute of you to figure out the means of the shock. I always think France is so soothing because we Americans haven’t the lengthy history of architecture and tend to build things in soulless blocks. I find those peaks, corners, alcoves, courtyards…imagination inducing.

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate your comments!
      It’s so interesting to discover other readings of a same place. As you so rightly pointed out, they depend on where you re coming from, your personality and your influences.

      When I recover from my initial “culture shock”, and finally reconnect with my surroundings, I feel like an explorer again. My imagination wakes up too and I feel like a tourist but with the great advantage of understanding all the shades of the language . That’s when I fall in love with Paris again, no more curtains of smoke between us, we are partnering again, like in the goo’ol’times . actually better than before, because I don’t take it for granted anymore. I have a return ticket to Asia.

      Btw, Your last line got me homesick ! 😉

    1. Thanks ! I really enjoyed browsing your blog, and your about made me smile, it’s very inspiring indeed!

      I can’t recall how many times I have wondered “is it the same world?” when I discovered another beautiful place. How fortunate are we to be able be constantly amazed by our journeys 🙂

  5. i love the last line. and i couldn’t agree with you more on that one.

    for some reason, you’re never the same person on your flight back home as when you left. that’s the beauty of traveling, i think. =)

    1. It is! You become rich with experiences and what I love most is that travels destroy all the stupid preconceived ideas. If we were ice cream flavor, we would be ube 😉

      1. true that. it erases the egocentric in us, thinking that our culture or country is the best, blah, blah, blah.

        before, i always thought that first world countries are waaaaay so much better than the developing ones. but having lived here in australia, it somehow made me love the philippines even more. it’s not perfect but it’s perfect in its own way.

        and i sure as hell wouldn’t mind some ube ice cream right now. i LOVE it!

      2. My point exactly “my home is not perfect, but it is in its own way”. Love that 😀

  6. Estelea, reverse culture shock is such an interesting phenomenon…I lived for a time in Italy and when I returned back home to New York, it seemed as if everything changed…I even spoke my native English with a different kind of accent. I felt as if I were a tourist in my own city. It took about a year to get back into life in the US but I can totally relate to what you write about here.
    Your comment about South East Asian alphabets being rounded in relation to the sharper edges of A, V, W, Z etc…How insightful and interesting. I never realize that!
    In the end, the old adage of “Home is where you hang your hat” comes into play and I suppose wherever one feels comfortable, is where one can call home.
    Thanks for reminding me about reverse culture shock…it was a while ago but I can still remember the feeling!
    Cheers my dear!

    1. This is a very interesting feeling indeed, thanks a lot for sharing your experience . As if our body had landed before our soul .. Takes some times to get it all together 😉

      1. Estelea, I like how you wrote “as if our body had landed before our soul”…Indeed, reverse culture shock is like that…you are spot on. I did research in college about reverse culture shock since I’d experienced it myself. Lots of people focus on culture shock itself but it’s the reverse that is important too…when you find yourself almost like a tourist or stranger in your own country.
        Thank you my dear for bringing this to light!

      2. It’s almost worse actually, because you are expected to fit in automatically since it’s your “home”.. Indeed a very interesting topic! Have a lovely day my dearest XXX!

      3. Agreed…yes, friends and family think you are the same person you were when you left…
        xoxoxox a million times to you, my dear!

  7. I absolutely love the architecture of Western Europe. As a history nerd, I really value what that architecture says about the past and I just think its gorgeous. The United States is so young and I grew up in the middle of the country, far away from the east coast where our Constituition and earliest history was born. The architecture of Europe has always fascinated me for its age and how well much of it has survived so intact through the centuries. That said, I’m so excited to explore the architecture of Southeast Asia and learn more about its own history. It will be so fascinating and such an adventure!

    1. Oh yes it will be 🙂 I love the European architecture too, it s a tribute to history, so many secrets, stories attached to it . It’s so inspiring isn’t it? Always trigger my imagination and I became addicted to history fiction books. Some places haven’t changed at all, I so wish stones could talk ..,

      1. Absolutely! I would visit Europe just for the architecture. So inspiring and so beautiful! It would be quite something if stones could talk. By the way, I love this photo. Absolutely lovely. 🙂

  8. This is a great way of looking at it – embracing being disoriented instead of being scared of it! Just working on my round up, will be sharing your story tonight!

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