We stepped out of the airport into South Korea and it was complete culture shock. We quickly realized just how unique Japanese culture is, how the small details and rules keep Japanese culture sacred. We already started to miss our lives in Japan.
Suddenly, in South Korea, people were wearing diverse colorful outfits and there was a more relaxed feeling in the air. There was a Western familiarity. The highways were similar to American highways, the cars were bigger and we even saw a few Jeeps on the road. People spoke at a normal volume and laughed out loud. There was a feeling that came over us.. maybe a feeling of less pressure? In Japan we felt a lot of pressure to follow rules, to make sure we were respectful at all times, whether it be by being quiet on the trains to wearing more conservative clothing. None of that mattered anymore, I could wear my shorts freely without feeling of guilt. There was also a feeling of awe. The awe came from the fact that we really don’t realize where we had been until we left. Japan has one of the most unique cultures we’ve witnessed and while we were living it we forgot the rest of the world.
We treated ourselves to a taxi since the time left of our trip was winding down. As we drove, I couldn’t help but think the most exciting thing about travel is that other world feeling right when you arrive. Things were strange but familiar. I noticed the trees again, it was not as lush as Japan and there were beachy pine trees. Coloring the world in.
Soon our senses were overloaded. We forgot about the gross smells of most cities and volume of speaking was louder. People laughing and expressing themselves more freely came with too loud volumes, less rules came with more garbage and stinky smells on the streets. Normal, but not in Japan.
Culture shock in South Korea was a good way to ease us into reverse culture shock in the US. We went out into the streets of Seoul feeling a bit lighter, though missing the quirks and specifics of Japan and it’s unique, untouched culture.