By the time we got home we’d gathered over a kilo of blackberries, both tupperwares brimming with the black fruit. They would make a scrumptious crumble later that evening, one we would all enjoy over jolly chatter about life.
For the past few days we’d been doing a bit of general catch-up during mealtimes. Our sporadic visits to the UK rarely find us all together these days and, naturally, everyone wants to know how we are. We, in turn, wish to find out what everyone has been up to since our last visit and the conversation springs back and forth accordingly.
As we sat munching on our very British pudding, I thought back to the energetic blackberry picking that had gone on earlier and I wondered if it might be a fitting metaphor for this trip.
In our attempt to pick a good crop for the evening pud, we’d reached for some of the biggest, juiciest berries, clumped together higher up. Initially we didn’t see the stinging nettles among the brambles and at times we forgot that the blackberry bush is rather spiky. So, our wonderful collection of fruit didn’t come without some stings and scratches. Despite this, we continued to reach for more delicious berries and kept picking until the tubs were full.
Travelling from one place to another this summer, switching cultures and languages and countries and settings every few days, felt a lot like picking those blackberries. There was good fruit and good times to be had, but occasionally it meant pushing past the brambles of reverse culture shock or brushing against the sting of awkward interactions courtesy of a forgotten social norm.
I don’t know why, this trip felt more disorienting than others. Things that I’d usually coped ok with now felt a bit overwhelming. Stuff that was obvious to everyone else kept catching me out, often when I least expected it. Things as simple as going shopping in Sainsbury’s or the way you go about asking if you’re on the right train.
I know this happens, I was even expecting it to happen. Still it kept springing up unannounced. Because when it’s your passport country, you seem to forget this is quite a normal feeling to get when stepping into a different culture. What’s more, it’s pretty normal for TCK’s too, but we don’t always admit it to ourselves.
However, in the end, the important thing wasn’t the scratches or the stings. It wasn’t even the blackberries themselves. What was important is what we did with those blackberries, the memory of fun times picking them and the crumble we’d enjoyed afterwards.
I think it’s probably safe to say the same is true with these summer adventures. What you enjoy, what you remember, are the people you spent time with and the fun you had together. And if there are tricky emotions to deal with in the process, you know it’s just a normal part of blackberry picking. All the effort will be worth it in the end.
Have you had to deal with reverse culture shock lately? What catches you by surprise in you passport country? Let me know in the comments.