Reverse culture shock?

When I was in China and the idea of permanently going back to Spain sometimes came up in conversations about the future, I always felt a bit uneasy. Would it be hard to get used to life in Spain after almost a decade and a half in China? I had the precedent of what happened to me in 2011, when I went back to Spain for a year and I ended up asking my then company to send me back to China. So, when in April my husband told me that we might need to move to Spain until the trouble in his company was solved, I was not very happy about it. I liked my life in China. Heck, it seems even part of my identity was about me being in China. That’s what my blog was about! And I had found a great international kindergarten where Baby A. would have a lot of fun and learn English. I definitely didn’t want to leave everything on hold.

Have you ever heard about reverse culture shock? It’s when you go back to your home country after having lived abroad and you have a hard time adapting. I really thought I was going to have a hard time when I moved back to Spain. Then “the situation” happened and I had to pack and leave. So… Am I having reverse culture shock or not?

I am not.

Totally relaxed in Spain (well, only on the weekends).

It’s amazing, I feel great in Spain. This is not to say that I wouldn’t go back to China when circumstances improve, but I am not dying to be there.

What happened this time? Why couldn’t I adjust to my own country when I was 27, and now ten years later, with husband and son in tow, everything about being here feels fantastic?

One of the things I notice all the time is how open and happy Spanish people are. Is this some kind of cliché? It’s not that people are laughing and dancing in the streets, but the small interactions that we have with complete strangers. An old man complimenting my son’s sunglasses, a bunch of domestic tourists clapping and singing on a train. Also, it is easy to make friends with other parents. A couple of days ago, my son had his first birthday party as a guest. I spent the evening with some of his classmates’ parents and they were all were super nice and talkative. And with this I don’t mean that Chinese people are unfriendly, they’re just… different. Less effusive, maybe.

I also thought it would be hard, for us and for my son, to move from a big city, with a population of several million people, to my hometown, where we’re not even 100,000. I assumed we would be bored and tired of going to the same places all the time, but we got into the habit of rotating what we do in the afternoons, after school and work. One day we go to one of the several parks around, another we go to the library to read a bit and borrow books from the children’s room, and another we may need to go to some store to buy something. Oh, regarding this, I promised myself I wouldn’t buy anything on Amazon and, except for an ebook that I couldn’t get anywhere else (When in Vanuatu by Nicki Chen), I’ve kept my promise. I’d rather go to a shop and, if I can’t find whatever I’m looking for, then I buy it online from anywhere but Amazon. It can be done! And I have also started using several apps and websites to buy and sell second hand clothes and stuff. All of this has also caused my amount of shopping to decrease by a lot, compared to when I was in China and Taobao was just so convenient.

In a park.

Living in a small place also has advantages: we can walk everywhere! We have a car but there’s no need to drive within the city as most places are within walking distance. Besides, on weekends and holidays there are so many places around to explore.

The worries about my son’s preschool were also for nothing. Here he is attending a public school and he is having a lot of fun. His teacher is a man in his 50s and he really seems to know what he’s doing. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed an improvement on my son’s pronunciation of some consonants. He won’t be learning much English, that is true, but well, here the school is completely free (except for some books and materials I had to buy) and in Suzhou I was going to be forking out 6000 RMB per month (about 800 EUR/900 USD).

On the way to school on his first day.

I think I’m also enjoying our stay because I see my husband is so much healthier and carefree here. No more stupid dinners with 50º rice liquor (aka baijiu, aka rocket fuel) 3/4 times a week, no more work pressure and competition, no more meetings on the weekend (or ever, haha). He lost some weight and doesn’t snore anymore. He is learning Spanish very fast and became friends with all the parents from school. Last Friday we went to a concert for children in a park and he made kimbap (rice rolls with vegetables inside) for everybody to try.

He had never spent so much time with his son.
Another one of his star dishes: sweet and sour pork.

I am definitely enjoying my year here and I look forward to participating in all the local events that I haven’t attended for years (I haven’t lived here in almost two decades): the Medieval Bazar in the Old Town, Christmas with its ridiculous amounts of food, the Three Wise Kings parade, Carnival, Easter, Womad (a world music festival that has been held for many years), the fun fair… Everything will feel new to me, and it will be new for my husband and son.