Google+ Sandra's Stories: Re-entry shock blues

Monday, 11 August 2014

Re-entry shock blues

Everyone warned me I’d have trouble settling back to life in Australia after three years in Tokyo. In those first few weeks back home, I gorged myself on cheap fruit and chocolate, drove everywhere, and spoke freely without having to translate in my head first. I thought how wrong everyone had been. Aside from my friends, I didn’t miss Japan. I was happy to be home. Life was so easy in Sydney.

Then after a few weeks, re-entry shock hit. I tried to catch the train to give me a break from driving, but it came half an hour late, full of people with their feet on the seats. I spoke easily and was perfectly understood, but I couldn’t cover up my blunders under the language barrier anymore. I tried to explore new places, but everything looked the same as before I’d left, even though I felt different. And worst of all, I couldn’t find a decent piece of raw fish or fermented soy beans anywhere. I missed Japan.

So I started trying to relive my life there. I joined the local branch of a running club I’d been a part of in Tokyo. But instead of being an exciting mix of internationals and locals, it turned out to be a seniors walking group. I organised a weekend ski trip to Thredbo but instead of a mountain of Japanese powder and relaxing in the hot-springs at night, it was a crowded ice-hill, with shower lines at the hostel. I went out for Asian food but I got Fanta and a fork with my bibimbap.

Things are different back in Australia. Where's the tinned corn on my pizza! 
After three months of wrong turns, I think I’ve now finally settled on a good balance between my life in Australia and what it was in Japan. To the relief of my friends, I now try to save all my Japan stories for Japanese class, where my classmates politely listen without dropping their heads backwards in a fake snore. I make the most of Sydney’s great weather and go on bushwalks and picnics with old friends without paying professional tour guides to organise it like I did in Japan. And I’ve started Skype Japanese lessons with my old Japanese teacher in Tokyo so I can still regularly capture the challenge of trying to express myself in another language, which was such a big part of my life over there.

After three months back home, I can now say I’m happy to be back but I will always miss my time in Japan.