Coming home: the good and the weird (reverse culture shock)

Nine months ago today, I boarded a plane to North Africa. Sixteen passport stamps and six countries later, I’m home. 

I love America. I love that no one catcalls me when I’m walking along the beach. I love that I can buy avocados at Aldi all year long. I love speaking English in the doctor’s office (and everywhere else). Mostly, I love the familiarity of operating in my home country and culture. But, after two weeks back in America, there are lots of things that strike me as…well…just plain weird. Expats, tell me I’m not wrong. Here’s my list so far:

Grass

Grass is everywhere. Why is our culture so obsessed with lawns? And wow—all that grass must require so much water. 

Bathrooms

American public bathrooms are not super clean and not super private. Maybe we could learn a lesson from Europe and start building fully enclosed stalls. On the upside, at least it’s free to pee and you don’t have to use a bidet or bring your own toilet paper. 

We drive everywhere…

In America, we walk to walk (i.e., “let’s take a walk”), but not to go places. If you actually want to go somewhere and buy something there is definitely not a hanut (mini store) in your neighborhood, so hop in the car. 

…in really big cars

We drive monster-sized cars.

Ranches

While you’re driving out of your neighborhood, take a look at those houses. They’re probably ranches—the quintessential American home. For some reason, that’s really funny to me.

Bread

Just saying, real bread goes bad. It sits on the counter for one day and then it’s done. But for that one day, it is so, so good. Not so in America. American bread sits on a shelf for weeks and it doesn’t change. It’s never good, but it’s never bad either because it’s fake. 

Obesity

The obesity epidemic is a real thing here—probably because we eat so much fake, processed food that’s filled with sugar. And for some strange reason, our fake food is cheaper than real food. That’s not how it works in North Africa where fresh, local food is cheaper than fake, imported food. Or, in many cases, the processed versions of food aren’t even available. You want salsa, pesto, pie crust, or taco seasoning? Feel free to make it yourself. You won’t find any of those things on the shelf.

Pre-cut fruits

This goes back to the Western “time is money” mindset. In North Africa, no one in their right mind would go to the grocery store and pay extra to buy pre-cut melon. But in America, apparently we’re too busy to slice our melons.

You can buy anything

You could literally go online and order anything you want to be delivered to your door tomorrow. And if you don’t mind hopping in your car, you can probably buy it at your local superstore. Is it good? Is it bad? I don’t know, but it totally blows my mind.


Radom other things I’ve noticed:

  • Americans eat a ton of red meat
  • We drink our water cold with ice
  • It’s normal to have heating and air conditioning in our homes
  • Wifi is unlimited—in Africa, I paid for it like data
  • We don’t carry cash
  • We walk on crosswalks because they are a thing
  • All the plastic bags…we are so behind the curve on this

I don’t have a conclusion this time. All these things are just a little weird to me. And to be honest, they make me a little bit grumpy, so I’m working on that.

What about you? What strikes you as odd when you come home from abroad?

3 Comments

  1. The last two times I traveled abroad, I lost 10-15 pounds in 2 weeks, all because every ingredient was fresh and every meal homemade. I like pretty much everything plain with a touch of salt and little more pepper, and I love fresh tea and fruit juices.
    Every time I came home, I gained the weight back and then some. Our food here is awful and awful for you. I enjoyed every meal abroad, and spent half as much on it as I would have in the states.
    Also, not being able to walk to buy food and essentials, or even my town, is something I mourn daily…

  2. I totally relate, especially with all the grass and cars. I returned home this January after living in UAE. I’ll never forget seeing Dubai for the first time and wondering where all the greenery went! At the same time, I really enjoyed walking to the grocery store and meeting friends at the cafe rather than taking my car (for a two minute drive). I wish I would’ve written down all my reverse culture shocks. I’m having a more difficult time remembering them!

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