In a slight departure from talking about destinations, things to do and traveling in general, today I’m going to share with you some thoughts on reverse culture shock. These thoughts have been floating around in my head for awhile now and I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
One thing that I’ve been struggling with since returning home is the strong emphasis on materialism in North American culture. I know I’m generalizing – not everyone is swept up in the race for the biggest house, most expensive car phenomenon – but a lot of people are. This is spurred on by all the advertising that we’re inflicted with day in and day out, only encouraging the culture of more more more.
This is especially apparent during holidays. In North America, holidays, especially those rooted in religion, have become more and more commercialized and have have switched gears to be about materialism and the buy more culture that is prevalent in North America.
Take for example Easter, this weekend. For many it is a religious holiday and a time to visit family. In Hungary, there are traditions, family time and lots of food. The Easter Monday traditions are a lot of fun. Traditionally, women are considered flowers that will wilt without proper water which men take upon themselves to do. They approach girls, asking through a traditional poem, if they can sprinkle them. When they say yes, then they get watered. Traditionally, women are doused in a bucket of water, but now they get a spray of perfume. The boys get painted eggs, which the girls prepared in the days before Easter, food and pálinka in return. It sounds like one big flirt fest.
Take this same holiday in Canada and the US and you get lots of bunnies, chocolate and eggs. Yes, some still follow their religious traditions, but a lot of people partake by eating lots of chocolates and dyeing eggs for the fun of it.
You see the same thing during Christmas. My first Christmas at home, was such a shock after spending 2 abroad. I had forgotten how many ads there were, how many sales and just how much people are spending during the holiday season. It really just blows my mind.
I’m not religious so in the big scheme of things whether or not a holiday still follows its religious roots doesn’t bother me. However, all the commercials and sales and advertisements that come up during these holiday periods do.
During Easter in Budapest, other than having a day off work and closed supermarkets, you would have no idea what the holiday is. There is no push to buy things, no decorated eggs in the window sills, no chocolate bunnies everywhere.
In fact, my memory of Easter in Hungary is a non event. I don’t remember doing anything special. Of course those who were religious went to church or went home for the holiday. I celebrated by cooking a three course meal for my friends and celebrating someone’s birthday.
When I moved to Budapest, I challenged myself to live on the salary that I was earning and not touch my savings (those were only for travel outside the country). Even if I wanted to buy things, I couldn’t afford it. Not to mention, there isn’t as strong as an emphasis on the things you own. When you’re forced to change habits, you make it happen.
When I first returned home, I had a hard time explaining to my friends why I couldn’t go do x, y, z activity, I couldn’t buy this or that or why I couldn’t go eat out. I had no money, and I was so broke. Now I have a steady job and income, but I’m still trying to not get swept back up into a lifestyle of things.
I know people who chase after the newest gadgets, despite owning the previous version that is barely a year old. I’m not judging these choices at all. It is a difference of priorities. I much rather save my money and spend it on experiences like travel.
It’s hard not to fall back into old habits and not to succumb to peer pressure and the materialistic culture around me. I like new clothes, shoes, purses and nail polish (my new weakness!) as much as the next girl, but I definitely don’t spend as much as I did before. When people ask me what I learned from my time abroad and how I’ve changed, this is the truthful answer. It can be difficult to relate to and understand, if you haven’t been away from it for a long time and then get reintroduced to it. .
What about your culture? Do you see it moving more towards materialism and commercialization? Are you in the US or Canada? Do you agree with me or think I’m totally off basis?