Jet Lag and Culture Shock

return to usa

My family has been back in America for a few weeks now, and I’ve been struck by how odd America feels after being abroad for a while. I had anticipated the perks of moving back— the little things like free water and fast service feel amazing.

It’s the culture shock that I wasn’t anticipating.

I have lived most of my life in the USofA, so shouldn’t I be used to this? But I feel almost as dazed being here as I did when I first got to Germany over three years ago! At least here I speak the language, so that’s a plus.

Don’t get me wrong, it feels great to be back! There are just a few of the aspects of American life that are going to take some getting used to…

1.) Miles

Adjusting to thinking in kilometers felt like quite the task, but after getting used to it I found that it’s a lot more intuitive than measuring distances in miles. Now, I keep driving at the wrong speed and thinking we’re a lot closer to our destination than we actually are.

2.) Grocery stores

It’s not like I was haggling in open-air markets for the past three years. Germany has stores that are quite similar to American grocery stores, the overall experience isn’t that different.

Except that it is! I walked into an H.E.B. and in true (dramatic) form almost cried over the sheer quantity of products. There was an entire aisle dedicated to salsa alone, and finding my usual salad dressing took 15 minutes of searching amongst a sea of vinigarettes. When you get used to choosing from limited options, suddenly having so many at your disposal feels completely overwhelming!

3.) Target

I can not tell you how many times I longed for good ‘ole Target while I was abroad. My whole family makes fun of me for it— every time I visited home, I would go just to wander the aisles and enjoy the aroma (if you are tempted to make fun of me let me assure you would do the exact same thing. I promise.) I know for a fact that in 6 months when we move to a small town an hour away from the closest Target, I will go back to complaining mightily.

But waltzing on into a Super Target my first week back stateside was definitely a mistake! It took me over an hour to find the items on my list, and in the process I circled the store several times.

4.) Strip Malls

The fairy tale landscape of Germany has been replaced with highways and strip malls. I know that the US has it’s beautiful cites too, but I miss the scenic drive I had every day!

5.) Small talk

I have never been a fan of small talk, which was great for living in Germany. Maybe it’s because Germans tend to be more direct with their conversations, or maybe it’s because I’m American and my German isn’t the best, but when I went out in Germany I didn’t have to chat with many people while running errands. Here I’m the jerk who forgets to wave while driving and blitzes past people in the grocery aisle.

6.) Convenience

It will never cease to amaze me that here, I can order something and receive it on the same day. Stores are open at all hours of the day and night (and on every day of the week no less!), and I can watch Law and Order: SVU all day every day if I wish. Welcome to the land of the free and the home of the brave!

This list will probably get longer as time goes on— the abundance of khaki pants, for instance, or the phenomenon that is black Friday. For now, I’m happy to be back and simultaneously missing my German home. It’s the in-between that is all a part of the process of living abroad!

How about you— have you ever been abroad and come back home feeling out of whack? What aspects of life in America were hardest to adjust to?

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