You have spent one or even two semesters in Peru. And it was great. But eventually, the day arrives that you will have to return to your own country. It seemed like only yesterday that you were struggling with your toilet paper and your water bottles, but in the end, you got used to the Lima lifestyle. To such an extent even, that you probably had a hard time adjusting to being home again… Yes, this phenomenon has a name: reverse culture shock.
I had quite a bad one, so I present you the: Reverse-Culture-Shock-Peru-Edition! I am sure most of you who went on exchange in Peru can relate… So, do you recognize the following?
1. The toilet paper issue
The pipes in Peru are simply not wide enough to handle your piles of toilet paper (I mean, look at that flood that happened in January). So, in almost every toilet you are warned: DON’T THROW TOILET PAPER IN THE TOILET. In the beginning, you fail (Faaack, I forgot again?!), but then it becomes so normal that you do it automatically. Result? Back in the Netherlands I am still frantically searching for a bin after I did my business.
My dad looked at me in horror when we stepped into our first Uber in Lima when he visited me: “No seatbelt? What do I do now?” Kind of hilarious. It was his reaction though that made me realize that for the past 4 months I had gotten so accustomed to not having a seat belt (most taxis, even UBERs, do not supply them, or only partly), I totally did not bother looking for them anymore. Oops… Ah well, it is not like you ever drive with high speed in Lima anyways with the traffic.
3. Real life hits… Hard.
As a friend would say “Life is not a pony camp”, meaning life is not always fun. But, in Lima, it was. There were no jobs, no family and friends, (in general) no tons of homework, no committees or associations, no obligations. In short, no pressure. Every day you would wake up thinking, well what do I want to do? The best part was that you had 160 people thinking the same, so there always was some sort of social activity to be part of like BBQs, surfing, predrinks or weekend trips. Now, back in Europe real life is calling again and that actually kind of sucks.
4. Water from the tap
Drinking water is one of those things I really don’t appreciate until I cannot get it from the tap anymore. In Peru however, you would prevent drinking tap water at all cost (unless your name is Gastao or Alfonso, good luck guys). This got so imprinted, that even after a night out you would open your fridge to get a bottle. Refilling your bottles, boiling water, buying it, we did it all. But cry no more… Welcome back to Europe where we even flush our toilets with mineral water.
5. Cleaning Again
In Peru, it is super normal to have a housekeeper that does your cleaning, especially in a long-term Airbnb or houses like Casa Yllika. Not only the shared areas like kitchens and bathrooms get cleaned every day (EVERY DAY!?), but your room gets a clean too once per week. And they change your sheets, which is very nice. I clean my house (and my sheets) a whole heap less frequent in Europe (bit gross, I know). You can imagine my disappointment when I again had to clean the toilet for the first time or even hold a vacuum cleaner after 6 months.
6. Your money ain’t worth nothing
As I described in reasons to pick Peru as your exchange destination in the first place, Peru is cheap! You can legit live like a king for 6 months. Salads and cocktails for 4 euros, six-packs for €2,50. Private surfing lessons for €12,50. 40-minute bus trips for 30 cents or 40-minute taxi drives for €3…
Back in Europe, everything costs a boatload of money again. No more eating out, drinking coffee every day or traveling every weekend. Add to this that spending soles felt like spending monopoly money. With your Peru lifestyle, your savings will last two weeks (if you had any left).
7. The weather in Europe sucks
If you were part of the spring semester (that is from July to December) you saw Lima become sunny. Summer was finally there in December! 30 degrees, everyone smiling, picnics at the Malecón, BBQs on the rooftops, chilling at Makaha beach. Welcome back to Europe my friend, where even your warmest Alpaca sweater will not save you from freezing your ass off. It’s Winter. And Cold, freaking cold.
8. Bye Bye Bad Bunny
As you were six months away and in Peru, chances are big that you ‘missed’ 6 months of American/European music. ‘missed’ I say because I got utterly disappointed when I got introduced to the Dutch rap scene again (HUTS). I immediately wanted to go back to Peru, to Bizarro, dance with my friends to the voices of Maluma, Becky G and J Balvin. No more reggaeton on every corner of the street, no more Latin music in the clubs. This is actually the thing that got me the most homesick for Lima.
So now you are back
Okay, I am not going to lie. I kind of hated being back. I miss Lima and the life we build with all Exchange students (2018 II – THE BEST semester). Moreover, I miss our Peruvian Buddy Team, I miss the sun, I miss the food, I miss the music, I even miss the traffic and the inefficiency. Mostly, I miss the freedom.
So, in all honesty when people ask me how I am doing: a bit bad. Anyways, I am not special, as apparently more people go through this. But let me end on a positive note. The fact that we miss Lima so much also means that it was way too amazing. And with that, I go back to allowing myself to feel sad, to put on some Bad Bunny song and go through all those 2000 photos I still need to sort.
Do you recognize these moments? Or did I miss your favorite (or most horrible) Reverse Culture Shock moment?