When you travel to a new place, it’s natural to have some culture shock. How about culture shock after coming back to your native home? Reverse culture shock?
Apparently, that’s a very real thing too – reverse culture shock!
My entrance coming back to the states was bumpy. Making it through US Customs had to be an ordeal. The customs officer couldn’t believe that a single woman would visit 9 Asian countries alone (I obviously must have had help or collaboration). I finally managed to convince him that I had just gone on an eat-pray-love-esque journey (I really need to watch that movie) and not a terrorism tour.
My next quest was to exchange my leftover Japanese Yen for US Dollars. I was sternly informed that even though I had almost $20 worth, it doesn’t matter since it was in coin form – which they don’t accept. Dollars would have been okay, even though 100 Yen notes aren’t a real thing. Welcome to America, the land of fine print and stipulations. Gah!
Spending the night at the airport, I finally managed to make it back to home sweet home in Ohio. My cat refused to sleep with me the first night but is now snuggling me, purring just like old times. I admit, maybe I deserved to be shunned for a night after leaving her alone with my folks for months on end. I’m so glad she’s forgiven me!
It’s nice to be back. Even so, there are a few things that are keeping me a little out of step.
Shock 1: I feel like I know everyone’s business.
When people around me talk – on the phone, amongst themselves, to themselves, to the cashier, anyone! – I feel like I know all their business. Ms. Kentucky-Derby-Hat is upset about her daughters recent college grades, Mr. Shorts-weirdly-short-for-a-man has someone in his life that’s in the hospital, and Little-Girl-whines-a-lot doesn’t think it’s fair that her brother gets to drive the cart. For the last several months, I’ve had no idea what anyone is talking about and I feel super awkward knowing now.
Something I would have never considered before, I realize now how freely people talk in public!
Shock 2: I’m on the wrong side of the road.
“The right damnit, the right!” That’s the side of the road I should be walking on, driving on, strolling on, riding my bike on, and playing Pokemon GO on. Not the left. Get off the left hand side!
America is a bit backwards from the rest of the world in that way. I can’t say that I’m sad to be back to the imperial system though. Hello miles and feet!
Shock 3: Selection for dayzzzz!
I went to Krogers with my mom yesterday to pick up some groceries. I’ve also gone on several trips to convenience stores for power drinks up until this point. All experiences had something in common: So many choices!
Mom and I picked up ranch dressing at the request of my brother – there were like 7 types of Ranch! Smooth ranch, peppercorn ranch, buttermilk ranch, regular ranch, blended ranch, light ranch, fat-free ranch, dairy-free ranch, garlic ranch…that’s more than 7!! The pressure to choose was intense.
You need cheese? Here’s a wall of it! Interested in some deodorant? Good luck choosing out of the 50 varieties for ladies! Don’t forget toilet paper – at least one of our 15 packages will be a good fit! I’m sure of it!
I kind of miss ‘one or the other’.
Shock 4: Wow that’s sweet / chemical-tasting.
Since I landed stateside, I’ve been eating all my favorite foods!
I schlepped my two big duffles all the way to an In and Out from the San Francisco airpot during my layover – worth it! Pizza has been ordered. I’ve had whos-counting cups of coffee. Mom and I went to Fazolis (“fast Italian”) and got breadsticks and pasta. While it’s all wonderful – not all of it is how I remember it.
Most of my couch surfing guests from abroad mention that our bread is very sweet. In bread I haven’t noticed it so much but talk about everything else! Pasta sauce, pizza sauce, drinks, Chinese food, and desserts are crazy sweet. You have to understand – the sweet I’m comparing it to is coconut ice cream and mango and sticky rice. I was never even able to put sugar in my tea while I was traveling!
Within my recent food binging I’ve also had a few incidents where I’ve taken a big drink or sip of potential deliciousness, only to think “wow is there oven cleaner in this?!” I just took a big bit bite of chemicals! Powdered coffee creamer, diet pepsi, stevia, and pre-shredded cheese all have a kind of chemical-taste.
I’m sure my palette and I will get over the hump, but it’s certainly made me think about the types of chemicals that can be in processed food!
Shock 5: Being social.
For the last 5 months, I’ve had the same conversation over and over. Well, with some exceptions.
Where are you from? What have you seen in town so far? How long are you traveling?
Those questions are the core of every conversation I’ve had – and it’s all so superficial. No teasing, defined chemistry, inside jokes or real intimacy. I have to admit to some awkward clumsiness with my social interactions so far. I’m a little slow on the humor uptake and am still speaking slowly from working with non-English speakers “I’m…going to…the…grocery….store…”.
Every day is feeling more and more normal. My parents bought a new house – the ‘retirement house’ *drumroll pleeeease!*. I’m going to be helping them move over the next few months, which will be a great way to stay in shape! Of course that’s only happening between yard sales.