While I thought about this entry for Jens’ blog, a word formed in my mind: reverse culture shock. I must admit that I had not encountered this expression before. But then I searched it, and a whole world opened up. There are web-sites that are entirely devoted to this topic. Australians, having lived in Europe where a trip between Tuscany and Paris is nothing, feel trapped when they move back home. Students counsel other students who return from a semester outside of the US. And so on.
Why did I think of this? I’m back in northern Italy, after a long time of absence and “naturalization” in Manhattan. Tonight, I was waiting for dinner with some relatives and aimlessly flipped through a fashion magazine. The editorial was devoted to a surprising topic: the X-ray diet. What is this? While the world wonders whether the newly introduced body scans at airports support our safety or affect our privacy, Italian culture takes a different perspective. Why discuss privacy rights, why take up the issues of security and freedom, when there are bigger worries? It is not enough, says the author, that ever thinner models and celebrities have imposed ever more rigid notions of thinness on us; now we have to go on a yet more grueling diet. While up to now we could hope to hide some imperfections under perfectly tailored clothes, we are finally visible in all our flaws. We have to become even thinner – this is what world politics and airport security do to us! We need to go on the X-ray diet.
I was shocked, and I knew, I’m home.