Reverse Culture Shock

The air was thick, but calme. A quick glance out the window proved that an orage, or storm, was brewing. Everything was colored pea green; the clouds were as dark as crows. “Welcome Home!” screamed the wind, once it arrived…and, it came with full force. It was the first time that mon chéri experienced the ‘American way’ to warn the population of impending tornadoes – these tornado warnings and watches couldn’t be avoided because they interrupted one of our favorite American TV shows, The Big Bang Theory. Certainly, this weather was not something I missed.

However, I certainly missed my mamie (my grandma).

Thankfully, we weren’t in the US to experience beautiful weather (and thankfully, we had a few sunny days mixed in).

His first time playing Bags.

I spent 8 months in France before returning to the US to visit family and friends. This was the longest amount of time that I’ve spent away from them.

My nephew caught his first ‘fish’!

Once in the US, I realized that I missed them more than I originally thought. Sadly, 3 weeks did NOT give us enough time to see everyone.

Visiting family and friends wasn’t the only thing that happened on this trip, though. In fact, some culture shock, er reverse culture shock, pulled at my jean jacket (reminding me that I hadn’t lived in the US for the last 8 months) as we made our way through “hellos” and “goodbyes”.

5 main Reverse Culture Shock Experiences that hit you when you return to the US after living in France for 8+ months (it’s inevitable):

  • The parking spots are HUGE! When I went to park my car for the first time in 8 months, I thought that I was parked on the line, in between 2 spaces… but, nope. I just had THAT much space in one spot. It was paradise. I was never afraid of hitting or scraping the car next to me. Who would’ve thought that those petit and narrow parking spots in France would become the norm for me?
  • The speed limit is ridiculous: It’s too low and because of this no one pays attention to it except the police. In France, you don’t see drivers going 15+ over the limit on the highway; in Chicago, it’s the norm. It took me a few days to get used to this difference.
  • Dinner is early. Since when was eating dinner at 5 pm too early for me? …Since I’ve been eating at 9 pm for the last 8 months. There were several times when I was still too full from lunch to eat dinner. Also, we couldn’t find brioche! Who doesn’t sell loaves of brioche?!? Thankfully, the US has English Muffins. 🙂
  • The public transportation sucks. It’s either non-existent or is devoted to the poor and to the elderly. Also, it doesn’t offer change! What kind of public transportation service doesn’t offer change? After all, it’s not easy to carry dollar bills and coins all the time. Also, why is it so difficult to find public transportation from the airport to the suburbs? In Aix, it’s 5.70€ to take the bus to/from the airport/TGV train station (and the drivers give change!).
  • There are some really big people. From the airport to the train station, we were the thinnest on the bus. I have to note that there’s no way that I can be considered thin with my pregnant belly, so, that’s saying something. Contrary to popular belief, there are people of all different sizes in France (no, not everyone is as thin as a cigarette). As a result of these size ranges and the fact that my US friends and family are of varying sizes as well, I always considered the “obèse” American stereotype to be over-rated and untrue. After all, there are obèse people in France; however, I wondered where this US stereotype originated. After spending 3 hours in the US, now, I understand why this stereotype exists. In the US, it’s more common (it doesn’t happen all of the time, but it is more common) to find yourself in a situtation where you’re surrounded by one type of size; however, that’s not to say that everyone is X size. Though, it was strange to see people using sit-down automatic shopping carts. These just don’t exist in France, though, some people could really benefit from them.

Throughout my 3 weeks stateside, I missed the fresh fruit and vegetables from the marché, lounging around my appartement nu, being close to the Mediterranean Sea, walking everywhere, eating delicious gelato whenever I wanted, stopping by the boulangerie every other day,… But, there’s always something about the US that makes me still call it Home.

During this vacation, I realized that, now, I have 2 homes: 1 in the US; 1 in France. Maybe it’s the easy access to air conditioning; maybe it’s the idea of having my mom always around…

Who can say, “Goodbye” to that smile?

Whatever it is, I won’t stop calling the US home anytime soon (despite this reverse culture shock experience). ♦

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