I've been settled into my new/old home (What's up, Nashville?!) for about a week now. I've got a great apartment to live in... at least until June, a car that I trust with my new niece (well... cousin's kid, but "1st cousin once removed" is too long), and I'm in the process of finding a job. I have been Stateside for nearly a MONTH now... crazy, and I am officially experiencing "reverse culture shock." As such, I'd like to present you with a list of things that I've noticed (good and bad):
- Americans, in general, are a lot bigger than the rest of the people in the world... especially the people I met in Asia. Sadly, I don't really mean taller here. As a whole, we're an overweight people. It's kind of overwhelming sometimes. For example, I was sitting at the airport, and I kept feeling like a wall was walking toward me. Yes, there are fewer people in our airports, but they're more dense. It's a whole different kind of claustrophobia.
- Driving is one of those things that you don't forget. I've been rather nervous about this step, especially considering the accident I was in just before I moved to Korea, but I've now driven up and back down the East Coast, into the sunset, in the rain, at night, in the wind, and in decent conditions, and I've not hit anything. To be honest, I'm a bit proud of myself. Though I have noticed that when the niece is in the car, I drive about 20 mph / 30 kph below the speed limit. I've been told that makes me a "pansy"; if that means my niece is more likely to be alive, I'll wear that title with pride.
- People talk louder here. They really do. I know that's one of those things Americans get tired of hearing, but it's true. It's a little on the obnoxious side. I'll probably slide back into it sooner rather than later, though. And then I'll be irritated with myself whenever I go back abroad.
- I miss the language barrier. I walked into a coffee shop to have breakfast with a friend, and I could understand everything that everyone was saying. I've so trained myself to listen for English that when I hear it now I can't tune it out. Want to talk about things that are overwhelming? Try that. I also noticed that I so miss speaking in Korean that I was talking to myself in Korean last night. I'm hoping that I can make some Korean friends here and solve that problem... Maybe they'll be willing to do a language exchange or something?
- I like teaching. Sigh. I mean, we knew that already. I played "school" instead of "house" growing up. Nevertheless, I think tutoring rather than teaching is a better direction for me. I've applied for a couple of tutoring jobs to try and fill the gap that I'm sorely feeling in my life right now.
- America is really very beautiful. Like I said, I've been doing a lot of driving since I got back. I hit Virginia the first week that the leaves were really changing (or so I was told), and it was breath-taking. Even though I lived there for many years, I never really appreciated how pretty it is. Seriously, of all the places I've been, no where else has done Fall like Virginia (and yes, I've been up to New England to see the leaves in the Fall. Vermont doesn't even come close).
- American food is ridiculously greasy and heavy. I acknowledge the greasiness of Korean food, especially the "snacks," but American food is greasy in a different way, and I've already gotten sick off of it. Granted, that's not totally the food's fault; I did allow myself some meat. However, until I'm more used to it, I'm cooking almost all my own food. Luckily, there's an Asian market very close to my apartment. I'm going to go later this week (maybe even today?!) and see if I can get my hands on some kimchi and tteokboki. (Yes. I'm craving kimchi. I don't want to talk about it.)
- People say things that they think are kind that really just aren't. I know people mean well. At least, the people I'm thinking of do. I'm trying to credit people for their intentions rather than their actions. It's not always easy, though. Please bear with me.
- Americans really like guns. Like. Whoa. Holy cow. Was it always like this?
- Americans really like nudity. See above.
- Gas prices are a lot cheaper than I was expecting them to be. Seriously, aside from the way I felt when the man at Immigration welcomed me home, seeing gas below $3.00 (and not having it be a closed gas station) has excited me more than just about anything.
- Speaking of which, Hearing the words "Welcome home." feels really good. I can't explain it. America has never felt like my home until now. It's a really weird thing for me, and it's causing a lot of confusion in my life.
- Reverse culture shock takes its toll on your self-esteem. There's really not much that's more degrading than realizing you're not sure what to do in a social-setting in your home country.
- Friends who understand are the best thing ever. Those people who will just sit there with no expectations... who show up at your door with pizza in hand... who lay around and watch endless hours of movies even after you fall asleep... They're amazing.
- It's easy for me to forget that Korea ever happened. I'm back in the same town I was before I went to Korea. I'm doing a lot of the same things I did before I left. The only thing that keeps reminding me that Korea happened is that I recognize far fewer people now than I did before. It's really quite disorienting... to the point of nausea, actually. It's kind of like that feeling that comes along with a strong medication: Everything's a little foggy... as if it could all be a hallucination. It's rather unpleasant.
- There are at least three different versions of Family Feud that air on a daily basis. I think two of them may be in current syndication??? There is little that's going on that confuses me more than that does.
- I constantly am afraid that people think I'm showing off when I read things in Korean. I'm not. I read things in Korean for two reasons. 1) It's the only way to get the information I'm looking for, and 2) What I'm reading is different and/or more interesting in Korean (like Harry Potter). I'm not very good at it, and I probably can't translate it word-for-word for you or anything, but I'm getting the gist of it at least. I'm not a poser. I just adopted a second language that I really like and am trying to continue studying.
- Eating out is expensive in America. And then you add TAX and a TIP... Actually...You have to tip in America. That and non-included taxes.... gets me every time. I miss being able to eat out for $5 a meal. Kimbap Nara... come back to me!!!
- Peppero Day and Veteran's Day are the same day. How am I just now realizing this?
- Last but not least (for now)... People decorate for holidays... specifically... Halloween??? I was at the airport just before Halloween, and decorations were EVERYWHERE. I didn't realize that was a thing. Or maybe I did and I just forgot. I don't know... but it seems like a little much to me.
- Edit: Bonus-American health insurance has nothing on Korean. I literally just started crying as I realized I can't afford a basic plan that would still bankrupt me if I went to the ER. I miss Korea.
And there you go. Twenty confessions of a very culture-shocked pansy.
Do you have anything you'd like me to try while in my culture-shocked state? Let me know in the comments or via any other means of communication you have for me, and I'll see what I can do. And, of course, I'll write about it.