About one week after our family returned to the United States after spending the last four and a half years living and working in Bangkok, Thailand, I wrote a blog about "20 Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America." Those were my initial observations. But now that our family is more than two months into our stay in the U.S, I have noticed a bunch of other things that I didn't run into during my first week here.
Reverse culture shock is the gift that keeps on giving, and while I don't walk around every day feeling stressed, there are still a lot of things that make me think, "Well, they don't do it like THAT back in Thailand!" Sometimes, that is a good thing. Sometimes that is a bad thing. But sometimes it is just neutral. Not good - not bad - just different.
So, without further ado, here are...
After spending the last four and a half years living and working in Bangkok, Thailand, our family recently came back to the United States for a six month home assignment (furlough). My wife and I grew up here, though our kids have spent most of their lives (so far) in Thailand. For all of us, however, there have been many new or not-as-familiar-anymore aspect of life in America to get used to.
Many people have heard of culture shock, the experience of unsettledness and uncertainty when you experience a foreign culture. Fewer people, however, are familiar with reverse culture shock, the experience of unsettledness and uncertainty when you re-enter your home culture after being in a foreign culture for a long period of time. But I can verify that reverse culture shock is a real thing because our family is experiencing it. Although “shock” might be too strong of a word for it, there are certainly a lot of things to get used to again. Here’s a list of several things that I have noticed this past week about life in the United States, after having lived in Thailand for a number of years.
At the beginning of 2016, I set a goal of reading 50 books this year. It was an ambitious goal but I thought I could do it. It turns out that life happened, 2017 is upon us, and I only ended up reading 36 books this year. Not as much as I would have liked, but probably more than I would have read if I hadn't been aiming at 50. Out of the 36 books I read in 2016, I picked my 5 favorites and have included a brief review of each. These are not necessarily the best of books that were published in 2016, but are my top picks (in no particular order) among the books that I read in 2016. Read one of them and maybe you'll find a new favorite!
The Way Thais Lead: Face as Social Capital
This was an excellent, well-written book with lots of insight about the different types of "face" that Thai people (especially leaders) strive for... and fear losing. The author draws out the implication for relationships between leaders and followers, and drives towards a conclusion that presents an alternative indigenous way of leadership in Thai culture that flies in the face of less noble (but more common) alternatives. The author got his Ph.D from Fuller Seminary, but this book is very obviously for a general audience, so he stops short of offering any biblical or theological reflection on the topic of face and Thai leadership. All the same, this was a very engaging book with lots of colorful quotes from Thai leaders. It gives a good framework for understanding what is happening all around you in everyday social interactions. It is a must-read if you live in Thailand.
I made it through two very different history books this past month from two very different periods of time and parts of the world. Looking towards the end of the year, I've realized that I won't hit my goal of 50 books in 2016 but I might get to 40. Stay tuned!
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
So many books have been written on the American Civil War and I have read nearly none of them, so this looked like a good place to start. This book is a collection of various essays about the Civil War by respected Civil War historian James McPherson. Each chapter contains one stand-alone essay so you don’t need to read them in order if you don’t want. Each chapter was thoroughly engaging, discussing topics like Lincoln as commander-in-chief, the role of slaves in their own emancipation, the importance of naval warfare, the role and perspective of Europe on the American Civil War, and theories about just war as related to this particular war. McPherson has a pleasant readable style, with plenty of detail and flavor, without getting bogged down in the details.