Reverse culture shock: Why aren’t complete strangers talking to me, and where are all the chickens?

reverse culture shock: Nicaragua to the UK

From chickens to clothes to children, strangers to straighteners to Spanglish … after two months in Nicaragua, I’m experiencing a little dose of reverse culture shock back here in the UK.

Reverse culture shock 1: From morning person to night owl

reverse culture shock Nicaragua to the UK
Chickens. Still not missing them.

I’m quite happy not being woken up by chickens, monkeys and the 6am bus pomping its horn outside my window – all of which were a common occurrence in Nicaragua. But, and who thought I’d ever admit this – I’m kind of missing being up and about at first light.

In Nicaragua my daily rhythm was far more in tune with the natural rise of the sun – 6.30/7am mornings were my new norm. I even felt bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

In the UK? My alarm went off at 6.30am yesterday morning, and it took me a full half hour to open my eyes properly and even contemplate disentangling myself from my duvet. After finally succeeding, I staggered to my kitchen to make myself a good cup of coffee. Nicaraguan, of course.

Reverse culture shock 2: From five T-shirts to a whole wardrobe

reverse culture shock Nicaragua to UK
I have a whole wardrobe to choose from, not just the contents of this fella

My wardrobe choices are no longer based on, “which of my items of clothing are the least dusty?” Clearly, this sounds wonderful. But there’s something that now feels a little bit wrong about being faced with a whole wardrobe of clothes to choose from. Do I really need all this stuff?

I went out for lunch for a friends’ birthday the other day, and it took me half an hour to choose what to wear. For lunch! What’s that all about?

Travel keeps me low maintenance, and by returning to the western world of plenty I’ve automatically gone up a notch on the scale. The joy I experienced at being reunited with my high heels and hair straighteners made me feel … how can I put it … a bit shallow. But at the same time? So goooooood.

Reverse culture shock 3: From creating a fake life story – in Spanish – to, errrrrr, not!

“Oh, I was travelling with my boyfriend here for two weeks. But he had to go back to England. For work.”

Or so went the tale according to me, after being asked for the gazillionth time why I was travelling alone, and receiving numerous confused looks upon explaining I was happy doing so and I liked it.

Or – my particular fave – being asked why I didn’t have children.

The answer to that one?

“Me and my (imaginary) boyfriend have only been together six months, so it’s too soon for children at the moment.”

Seemingly not in Nicaragua, as the vehement looks and comments of disagreement told me!

It was at this point my inner voice would scream: “Arrrrrrgh, aaarrrrrrgh, arrrrrrrrrrgggghhhh! He doesn’t exist! I just made him up because I don’t want to appear any more strange than a five foot ten sort-of red-headed white girl travelling alone on a chicken bus already does, without getting into a whole debate in Spanglish about my wishes / non-wishes for children!”

reverse culture shock: Nicaragua to the UK
Ask me why I’m travelling alone / don’t have children. Go on, dare ya!

Deep breath.

Instead, I just smiled sweetly, and ordered another chicken tortilla from the nearest vendor.

Anyway, I’m not missing the regularity with which complete strangers ask me such questions about my private life.

However, I AM missing the level of interaction and chattiness that’s common in Nicaragua.

I MISS hearing those revolutionary tales – I was incredibly humbled by what ordinary people had gone through.

The only voices I hear on the London Underground are those of us from more northerly reaches of the British Isles, and tourists debating which branch of the Northern Line they need.

I mean, seriously, what’s the matter with you all? Ask me how old I am and why I don’t have children, damn you!!!

Have you experienced reverse culture shock when returning home? Share your stories below.
Julie Sykes of The Gap Year Edit


Hi, I'm Julie, a York (UK)-based travel blogger and comfort-zone pusher. Join me as I bring you pics and musings from my mildly adventurous travels around the globe. My mission is to hear you say, "I"m so glad I did it!" instead of, "I wish I could, BUT ..."

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Julie,

    A HEARTY lol on this post 😉

    Those questions are far and away the most common for a woman to be asked. My wife got it all the time when she did the solo travel bit, back when we first met and I hadn’t sprouted my travel wings.

    I know people can’t get why a woman would do anything but have kids, stay home and take care of them, especially in Central American countries. You’re doing a great service by showing women and men that anybody can travel solo.

    Always have a cover story. Even as a guy i need them because OK; I’m married, and have my wife in tow, but the children issue comes up quite frequently. Folks don’t get what they can’t understand and resist the fact that there are so many ways to experience life.

    Thanks Julie, fun post!

    Tweeting from Bali.


    1. Thanks Ryan, glad you enjoyed it 🙂 It’s reassuring to hear that it’s not just me that gets into the situation of having to create a whole alternative life story! Wishing you a wonderful day Blogging from Paradise in sunny Bali 🙂 Julie

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