Posts Tagged With: Reverse Culture shock

I’m Not in Kansas Anymore

Ok, I was never really in Kansas, but you get the idea. I am now officially moved into my apartment in Connecticut, or as moved in as one can be without any furniture or a bed, and I survived the long solo trek from Missouri to New England. Illinois, Indiana, Ohio – three-day hiatus in Columbus to visit a friend from college – and then Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut. I narrowly avoided having my bike fall off the back of my car and found my way through fog, rain, and the summer construction season. I somehow managed to arrive at all my stops despite not having a GPS or a Smartphone (it’s called maps, folks!), but now I’m hit with the clincher – no internet for a week! I’ll have to make due at Starbucks this weekend (I have yet to find the public library, I should probably Mapquest that), pretending like I’m consuming their Tall Medium Roast Coffee (cheapest thing on the menu besides a kids’ drink) while I’m really fasting for Ramadan. $1.86 must be the going rate for Wifi.

I officially feel out of my element, more so than when I moved to France, even back in 2011 when I didn’t know anyone. I am for the first time (more or less) no longer a student, and I don’t have the typical student support network. I can’t go up to random strangers (or I suppose I could, but I won’t) and ask them to direct me to where to buy groceries, set up my internet, buy a shower curtain, or what to do when I am lost. Luckily, I’ve managed all those on my own, once I figured out how to get to AT&T. There’s a nice big shopping street through the center of Danbury (or is it Brookfield?) with everything you could want: a pharmacy, a furniture store (those purchases will be much further down the road), Bed Bath & Beyond, a Starbucks (thank you cheap internet), and a grocery store all on the same stretch. I am very far from having a “walkable” city experience, however, smack in the middle of Suburbia. Thank goodness for my new used car, which luckily survived the trip over with me.

And the grocery store I went to! I had one of those typical culture shock experiences. I’m used to my St. Louis grocery stores or even the Omaha Hyvee – straight, symmetrical aisles that are carefully labeled with plenty of elbow room for turning around. Stew Leonard’s was nothing like your Schnuck’s or your Dierberg’s. Touted as the world’s biggest dairy (I did pick up their store variety milk, orange juice, and peanut butter, just in case it is also cheaper to buy locally), it looks like one gigantic barn chock-full of people. You turn in a labyrinthine pattern following some apparently intuitive layout (I had to walk around the entire store four times in order to find sugar and flour, dodging traffic as I sidestepped between grocery carts). It was a full-blown experience, with noise and smells. I am happy to say that the selection of cheese and bread looks excellent. I immediately bought some New York sharp cheddar, which I have been craving for months. When I stop hemorrhaging money, I might even occasionally treat myself to gruyère and the five thousand other varieties of cheese I saw (it was the biggest selection in America that I have seen by far, they weren’t kidding when they said that they were the “world’s biggest dairy”).

There’s nothing scarier than being in a new place where you don’t know anyone and you feel like you are camping in your too-big-for-one-person apartment. And I don’t even have Game of Thrones to watch in the evening to help me get through this period on my own.

Good thing I’m having my first ever Italian lesson tomorrow and a Meetup indie movie night where I must be the youngest person by ten years.  That, and a refrigerator full of groceries. I think I’ll survive.


Categories: Repatriation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Reverse Culture Shock

Home musings…

You’ve all heard of culture shock.  Moving to a new country where things are done differently, where they speak a different language, where cultural norms and social mores are so… different.  Some people get it really bad (and these are the people who don’t end up staying for long), but others get in a serious of sudden, spontaneous homesicknesses.  Not because the new is bad, but because you miss the old.

There’s also something called reverse culture shock.  Potentially more lethal.  When you come back to your home country, you start to miss all the things that you liked about living abroad, and sometimes you had no choice about coming back.  Your visa expired.  You ran out of money.  You don’t have the same rights in your foreign country, or maybe you find it impossible to be with the person of your dreams unless you come home.  In that case, reverse culture shock can be severe.  You are in the place you grew up in, but it’s all these reasons that prompted you to leave that are digging that thorn even deeper.  When your home away from home is no longer your home.  And home isn’t really home any more.

I feel somewhat blessed, in the way a chameleon is blessed in turning green and yellow and brown.  My culture shock has always been minimal, and I re-adapt to living in the United States without a second thought.  Is it weird to be back home? I am asked.  I mean, I guess it’s weird to do your shopping a bit differently, your cooking, your (non)walking, your talking.  But, as I’ve lived in Switzerland and then the United States, France and then the United States and then France again – visiting again in the United States is like traveling to see loved ones, camping out there for a week or two, and then moving on to the next destination.

But then again, I don’t really know what settling down somewhere is like.  I have perpetually been a student, studied abroad as a student, moved here and there as a student, but I have not yet worked somewhere abroad, picked out my apartment, and truly made a life.  I’d love to have that opportunity arise, but whether that will be soon or far off is hard to say.

My Christmas presents from my oldest, dearest friends? Arm & Hammer baking soda and cake mixes.

I don’t think I’ll be missing home anytime soon.

Categories: Daily Life, Immigration | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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