I have officially been back in Philly for 2 weeks now and I would have never thought I would experience reverse culture shock. I remember before leaving I did read some articles about it, but gave it no thought because I said to myself, “Experiencing reverse culture shock? No way!”
Some of it is minor, but there are some major differences after coming back. My biggest one is becoming part of the majority population back to the minority population. The moment I stepped off the plane in JFK, this realization hit me in the face really quickly. But even though I looked like majority population in Hong Kong I always felt like I was in the middle because I was not able to communicate with locals properly. And when they realized that I was an “ABC” (American-born Chinese) the response was always, “Ohhhh! So how did learn how to speak Chinese?” or “Ohhh! Your Chinese is really good!” I knew these questions and compliments were genuine, but it felt like it was a barrier that made me feel different from others.
Another major reverse culture shock was readjusting myself back to the everyday pace here. Because Hong Kong is a fast moving city, everyone always seems like they are in a rush to go somewhere, even though they might not be. Now being back in Philly, the daily pace is a lot slower, so I find myself having a hard time readjusting. When I was walking with friends, I would be at least 3-4 feet ahead of them because I got so used to walking fast. When I did slow down, it felt really awkward to walk at a slower pace because it felt like I needed to be somewhere, when I obviously did not.
I do miss Hong Kong, but coming back has made me appreciate some of the things Philly offers—one of them is space. No more small apartment complexes, no more having to walk through dense crowds on the street, regaining my personal space, etc. I have mentioned before that Hong Kong lacks land so space is very sparse and because space is sparse, housing spaces are lot tinier than what we are used to in the States. The moment I came back home, I looked at my family’s house and said, “Wow, our house is huge,” and I never thought that before I left for Hong Kong. So coming back made me appreciate the amount of space available for us to use here.
On the other hand, the thing I miss most about Hong Kong is their transportation system. Sorry SEPTA, but the MTR wins hands down. I have been spoiled by the MTR with trains coming every minute and the longest wait I have had to experience was 10 minutes in Hong Kong, while here, 10 minutes is considered the shortest. I understand why the MTR runs so fast, because everyone in Hong Kong relies on the MTR to get to where they need to go, while in Philly that is not the case because the majority of people drive.
One of the most common questions that I get since coming back from Hong Kong is if I would like to go there again, and my answer is yes. Hong Kong is really a mix of East and West, and that is what makes it different. My cousins there always make a joke saying that, if you visit Hong Kong, you practically visit the rest of Asia because there are so many different ethnicities that settle here, you really do get a taste of every culture on the eastern hemisphere.