By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Fair Game - Culture shock
Philip Fairbanks.png
Philip Fairbanks

There’s all kinds of culture shock. There’s the type I experienced on childhood trips outside of the region and discovered that Sun Drop and tea with sugar already added in it aren’t standard outside of my familiar stomping grounds. There’s the type of culture shock I experienced moving to Burbank (the Hollywood-soundstage version of a quaint small town) for about a half a year or when I moved to Manila, Philippines for about five years. I had to learn about a new type recently - reverse culture shock. It’s considered a common reaction for expats who have been away from their home country long enough. The COVID lockdown of 2020 canceled my flight to visit family and my spinal injury of 2021 ensured I wasn’t in shape to walk, much less fly, well into 2022. 

I appreciated my time in Asia and learned a lot of things as well. Among others things, I found the cure to seasonal affective depression. It’s actually pretty simple. Just move to the tropics! The problem is, it’s a temporary cure as I discovered in November of this year. That was the time in between the injury hoovering up my meager savings and a voice-over gig I’d been doing remotely drying up.

Once I got back, it was another type of shock. For one, I had the reverse culture shock to deal with on top of dealing with the Californian invasion of my beautiful, home state. I was also coming to terms with the uncanny, surreal feeling like when you’re not yet aware that you’re dreaming and can’t quite figure out why the scenery is instantly recognizable but at the same time something seems somehow slightly off. Also, I missed several fads and trends in the western hemisphere which I’m sure added to the Rip Van Winkle effect I’m still recovering from. 

Mind you, the culture shock wasn’t nearly as bad as the sticker shock. Now, of course I’d gotten used to a much more favorable cost of living in Manila. On top of that though, the skyrocketing inflation that has picked up immensely since the pandemic has hit us all hard. That said, life is transitional. I will miss Don Pappa rum and lechon kawali, sisig and Engkanto craft beer but (apart from family and friends obviously) I also regularly missed sausage biscuits. Despite the similarities between country cooking and Pinoy soul food cuisine and the shared love of pork products of all types, it was hard to find a sausage patty outside of an English muffin at McDonald’s. And if you’re craving an actual biscuit? (Obviously Popeye’s does not count) Well, good luck then. 

Thomas Wolfe remarked how “you can’t go home again.” Now, of course you can, but the place you return to just won’t be the same as the one you left.

Standard reporter Philip Fairbanks can be reached at (931) 473-2191.