Reverse Culture Shock

Things I noticed being back in the US after almost a year.

1. America has gone gluten-free! Gluten-free was a thing when I left the US, but now it’s THE thing. Restaurants were advertising gluten-free menus. Costco (where I noted that absence makes the Costco-heart grow smaller) shelves were lined with gluten-free products. Oh we Americans do love our bandwagons.

2. Three consecutive mornings of donut breakfasts is a sure way to cure oneself of missing donuts. On the other hand, there’s never too much salsa verde.

3. The US road is filled with vehicles of all shapes, sizes, and emissions including SUVs, pickup trucks, smart cars, and beater cars with their own first name. Over here, 1 out of 3 cars is German made, 2 out of 3 cars run on diesel, and 3 out of 3 cars is guaranteed to cause fighting for space in the backseat.

4. Whoa, TV. There are even more TV channels than I remember and everyone on the screen seems to be SHOUTING. Either infotainment has gotten more manic or the HD on my 50” TV (is that how big it is??) was messing with me. Whatever the case, I didn’t have to wait for Lent to turn off the TV.

5. KEXP: Where the Music Matters. While it turned out I hadn’t missed the TV, I had missed the radio in the car – especially hearing live in-studio performances on KEXP. I miss catching the front end of new music and so many other innovative things (Uber!) that we Americans are rightfully respected for.

6. 6am come-as-you-are coffee run where “to go” is fully implied. I haven’t been able to buy coffee before 8am for months. Venti-sized, saucer-less happiness.

7. Americans are really, really friendly. Smiles are always returned and people talk to you in the park, in the checkout line, and make an effort to cross the street to say hello. It’s the most pleasant kind of spot on stereotype provided the conversation doesn’t turn towards what you do/who important do you know/where your kid goes to school/drones.

8. USA, you don’t know how good you got it: Laundry Edition. What takes me 4.5 hours in Europe (2:20 wash cycle and 1:59 dry cycle + :11 walking to and from common laundry dungeon) to wash a load of clothes that I can easily hold in one arm took me less than ½ the time for 3x the volume without the need to be fully dressed. And, it smelled for real clean.

9. Facebook and FaceTime are great ways to keep up, but nothing takes the place of an in-person visit – especially with little people like nieces and nephews and family and friends who hug like it matters.

10. Safety. I don’t want to trigger a debate, but the single biggest question I’m asked as an American living abroad is: “What is up with your country and guns?” Seriously. My biggest observation being back: how much more aware I was of my personal safety. It takes being in a place where guns aren’t a constant threat (where I live and where I’ve traveled to) to recognize the weight we Americans are asked to carry. Perhaps not surprisingly a school shooting happened in my city in the week I was home, eight blocks from my sister’s house. I’m not advocating anything here, simply sharing my own experience living in two worlds.

Brett is flying to Seattle as I write this. Guaranteed he will be doing #6 (though not # 2) as well as hugging it out with my family this Father’s Day. Happy Father's Day -- which happens on the same day in Lux as it does in the US!