Culture Shock—Why Going Back to Work Isn’t So Straighforward

My office at work, where all the magic happens
This is where all the magic goes down....

The first day back to work after a lengthy vacation is usually a pretty strange feeling—but for me this time, it was even more different than what I was used to.

In the past, I’ve mourned the loss of freedom to while away hours as I pleased, the choice to wake up when I wanted—these things were always replaced with alarm clock-reveilles and the feeling that I wasn’t getting anything done quickly enough.

But this time was different—for the first time, I’d come back with a single question:


Before I’d left for Tanzania, I was pulling 12- to 16-hour days trying to wrap up as much work as possible before leaving. It was as if the fate of the world depended on me getting all of my work done right there and then.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I’;m sitting in a hut the size of my office and made of dirt, wood, dried grass and cow dung. It fits six family members, and no one complains about the snug fit, for this is all they know. (We didn’t take pictures, since we thought it would be disrespectful.)

Yet I’m back here and I’m hearing the moans of people who hate their job and others who feel stressed trying to get reports in on time.

However, I still understand how we can get so wrapped up in the madness of our jobs. I woke up this morning to a flurry of emails on my BlackBerry marked “high-priority” and “important”, and while I know it’s going to be a busy day, is that a good enough reason to get myself worked up?

Stop. Take a moment. Think about it—I mean really think about where you are in life and what really matters in your world.

Perhaps you too can experience a much-needed paradigm shift.

–case p.

By Casey E. Palmer

Husband. Father. Storyteller. Calling the Great White North his home, Casey Palmer the Canadian Dad spend his free time in pursuit of the greatest content possible. Thousand-word blog posts? Snapshots from life? Sketches and podcasts and more—he's more than just a dad blogger; he's working to change what's expected of the parenting creators of the world. It's about so much more than just our kids. When Casey's not creating, he's busy parenting, adventuring, trying to be a good husband and making the most of his life! Casey lives in Toronto, Ontario.


  1. totally agree. I’ve been out of work but during the time off it’s given me a new perspective on things similar to this. Nothing as drastic as seeing what you’re writing about but being at home with my son has really shown me a lot about work-life balance

    1. Indeed, Mark — I think we often see keeping life simple as something that’s way outside of our reach, but it’s only because we’re quite adept at overcomplicating the lives we lead. I hope that when a new job arises for you that you can keep that balance alive!

    1. Heh. I’ve been trying to reconcile people begging for pennies in order to eat versus people crying that a $10 sandwich is too expensive.

      I’ve had a headache this entire week because of it 🙂

  2. I went through the same experience when I returned from Malawi – reverse culture shock. It definitely gives you a better perspective on life, when spending a significant amount of time in another culture.

    We may have more wealth in North America – but does that make us richer? Some of the happiest and most grateful people I’ve met were in Malawi.

    At the end of the day, what’s most important – how much stuff we’ve accumulated, or how many people we’ve made a difference to?

    As Paul would say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

    To me that is real perspective.

    1. Couldn’t agree more 🙂 I’d like to see less stuff around over the course of this year — more peace of mind that way. I think that’s part of why there’s such a different mindset; we get ourselves so wrapped up in material wealth that it’s impossible for things to be uncomplicated.

      Might be time for a return to past lessons.

  3. I always notice this issue when family comes to visit from St. Vincent. They can’t wrap their brains around the hustle and bustle of North American life. I’ve been asked so many times over “why do you need this?” We spend so much time gogogo and never really get anywhere in the grand scheme of things.

    1. It’s true, man. Ever since I’ve been back, it’s possible that I’ve spent more time at work than doing ANYTHING else. And it’s primarily due to the fact that people can’t get along on writing documents and I need to step in and come up with a solution that appeases all of their bosses.

      We’re fighting over SENTENCES while people across the world fight over LIVES. I can’t even understand half this crap, and when people get pissed off about the way their location is portrayed in a document, I get it even LESS.

      Things be messed up up hurr, yo.

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