Having been *officially* back in the United States for close to three weeks now, I’ve realized that I’ve been experiencing quite the reverse culture shock in my home country, after being out of it for ten months.
Although I’ve been living in France since 2015, returning home every summer hadn’t been such a huge reverse culture shock– perhaps it’s due to the fact that I hadn’t stayed that long abroad (seven months as opposed to ten), but all the same, this year has been quite the adjustment.
For those who don’t know what reverse culture shock is, it’s the psychological feeling of being unfamiliar with what used to be familiar in one’s home country, after a long period of living somewhere else. As a result, it can be difficult to readjust and get used to customs of the home country. Considering that I’ve only been home for barely a month (and the fact that I’ll be returning to France within another month), I admit that I’ve been feeling a strange detachment for the country which I’ve called “home” for the first 22 years of my life.
That said, I’ve compiled a list of reverse culture shocks that I’ve noticed since being home– if you’ve ever been an expat, then you’ve probably experienced these points! Without further ado, let’s get to them!
10 Reverse Culture Shocks I’ve Experienced in the U.S.
1. Forgetting that dates are written “Month/Day” (e.g. 3/16 for March 16th), and not “Day/Month” (e.g. 16/3, or 16 March). It’s a habit now, and I’ve caught myself slipping to the latter when I’m signing documents in the U.S.
2. On the topic of dates, I also get confused between military time and the 12-hour clock. Recently, I went to the movies and saw showtimes that read “3:30” or “4:15.” For a second, I was puzzled why the theaters would be showing films so late at night, but then I realized that they were for the afternoon! I’ve gotten so used to military time that I would’ve expected the showtimes to read “15:30” or “16:15.”
3. Getting confused between Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures. Now, this one isn’t so bad, as I’d just recently (aka half a year ago) got used to calculating between Celsius and Fahrenheit. But I still have to pause and think a bit when I see something that reads 38°F (dang, that’s hot! Oh, wait a minute…that’s cold!).
4. Tax/tips not being included in purchases. Having gotten so used to tax-included items and a non-tipping culture in France, I do find the no-tax and tipping rules to be quite irritating back home. Really, doing math after a big meal out is the last thing I want to do, and it sucks that even if service was awful, you still have to give at least 15% (not kidding!). Can’t life be made simple sometimes?
5. Needing ID to buy alcohol. Just last week, I went out for dinner and I wanted to get a glass of wine with my meal. However, I’d forgotten my ID at home, after being so used to not carrying it around with me in Europe. Of course, I couldn’t order the drink, which was a bit of a downer, but understandable– after all, restaurants would get in so much trouble if they were caught serving to minors! At the same time, though, it’s a bit ridiculous that we need to be so strict with alcohol in the U.S.: it’s like we can’t even trust our citizens to be responsible with drinking. Guess that’s why our 21+ policy hasn’t been working out so great for us…
6. Needing a car to get places. At least being here in Los Angeles, the infrastructure was specifically-built to have cars on the road– that said, car culture is HUGE. Considering that I’m off my car insurance this summer, I can’t drive without it being illegal– as a result, I either have to rely on rides from others or walk to places. But with Los Angeles being ridiculously massive, it’s really hard to get around without spending half of the day in transit. That said, I really miss the convenient metros and buses in Europe– traveling is much easier there!
…oh, and don’t get me started on Los Angeles traffic. 😦
7. Everything is SO FREAKIN’ HUGE. I’m talking about food portions, roads, parking lots, houses, everything. I’ve had food– whether at home or in restaurants– and I would almost always feel stuffed to the core. However, I do appreciate the size of the roads, parking lots, and houses, especially after feeling claustrophobic in public in Europe.
8. There’s much less smoking in the U.S. This counts as a good point, because I absolutely hate smoking; back in France, it was almost impossible not to smell cigarettes in public, and I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. At least on the West Coast, it’s frowned upon to smoke, as we’re all about being healthy. Sure, pollution in Los Angeles is bad, but I’d take that over cigarette smoke any day.
9. Being able to wear more-colorful clothing. …and not getting judged for it. At least in France, people tend to wear a lot of somber colors (black, gray, brown), so when it comes to wearing something *slightly* out of the ordinary, e.g. a blue shirt, it stands out. I guess it’s because France (Europe, in general) has quite a collective, rather than individualistic, culture, so it’s more about fitting in rather than doing your own thing. I’d really wanted to break out some of my colorful garb abroad, but couldn’t, and I’m glad that I’m able to back in the U.S.!
10. Thinking in dollars, instead of euros. Since my job in France pays me in euros, along with the fact that I spend money in euros, it’s strange coming back to dollars here. Sometimes, I catch myself saying “euro” when I’m actually referring to “dollars!” It’s also weird to be using dollars again when making purchases, as the green-and-white banknotes and *nearly-useless* coins are ones I haven’t used in such a long time.
…and that’s about it for me! Got any reverse culture shocks you’ve experienced? Let me know! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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