I have had a bit of culture shock when exploring Da Nang, Vietnam, but probably not the kind of culture shock you're expecting someone would experience when in Vietnam.
I went into a supermarket and there was so much food (cheese! wine! a bakery section!), such a variety of options, brands I actually recognized, air conditioned cleanliness, and prices were actually posted. I felt lost, I didn't quite know what to do with myself, and I ended up wandering around wondering if I should buy anything I actually came to buy or just walk out and take a moment to adjust. I decided for a halfway happy medium and bought a package of cheese.
I had culture shock for my own culture.
It still feels weird to think about it.
I spent 2 months in northern Vietnam, buying everything I needed from small marketplace stalls and stands, family owned shops that are on the main floor of their house, sitting down at small plastic tables with small plastic chairs for my meals fully prepared, and pulling over into villages where items are on the ground on a bamboo or cloth carpet. That had become my new normal shopping experience. So when I went into the supermarket, what should have felt normal to me no longer feels normal.
I shiver at 18 degrees celsius, I am sometimes embarrassed that my shoulders are showing when I am wearing a tank top, I bargain my prices, and I throw my napkins and used lime slices and empty beer cans under the table at the dinner restaurant. I eat with chopsticks and haven't used a knife in a long time. I've become accustomed to sharing rooms with families or dormitories with thin mattresses on the floor, I'm okay with hard beds, guesthouses that are like motels, cold showers, bum guns (replacement for toilet paper), and not being able to understand very much of anything that anyone says to me. These are all superficial changes to my lifestyle that I didn't realize until feeling completely lost in the supermarket.
Over the past few days as I've been exploring Da Nang and I've been surprised at how modern and updated the city is and how calm it is. Even with storms clouds and rain rolling in and out every 30 minutes, the roads are wide and easy to drive, and the beach is beautiful, clean, white sand with large hotels nearby.
The temples and iconic Lady Buddha are immaculately white and clean, with organized crowds and ample garbage cans around.
The roads through the mountain parks are quiet and were properly signed.
Even my hostel, Barney's Hostel, is themed after Barney from the TV show How I Met Your Mother. I haven't stayed at a Westerner-catered hostel since I was in Europe last year. It's not a bad thing that it's European/American themed (including pizza and carbonara on the menu!) it's that I was a little freaked out there was even western food available, fluent English speaking staff, proper sturdy dormitory beds, hot water, flushing toilets... and a lot of other backpackers from all over the world.
I didn't think I was living so differently until things mentally caught up to me here. I think having the motorcycle has brought me off a more traditional path for the last 7 months through Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, but especially in Vietnam.
What would have once been like any other day, I now see as a privileged life. What would have once been a normal city, I see as quite civilized, modern, and wealthy. I feel a bit confused with where I stand on all of it, if northern/country life is something I prefer over southern/city life... or if that's even a comparison I can make. But that's part of the joy of travel. To question where you are, who you are, and to be shocked and confused on pretty much a daily basis.