Some call it “Re-entry”
I promised you a post on culture shock and boy are things different. It’s evidenced right now as I’ve reduced what used to be one of my favorite hobbies –blogging– to typing out a post on my iPhone on my morning commute.
Culture shock number one: time. While we were in Slovakia and even India I had ample time to pursue my hobbies, whether I did so or let time idle by is another story, but I’ve honestly never experienced time going by so fast in my life. Entire weeks seem to blink away.
Culture shock number two: food. When i drafted this post in my mind (what has somehow turned into a month(!!) ago, see culture shock number one) I literally was going to say that bread in America never molds. We had one loaf for WEEKS. I’ve since experienced the reverse of that because we eat so few meals at home. Even packing lunches I barely make a dent in the food that I buy at the market and lots of things end up going bad. Bummer. (Obviously the solution is to by less. I’m working on that too.)
Culture shock number three: drugs. Yep drugs. Living in Berkeley this shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’ve been offered drugs on multiple occasions. My favorite just happened yesterday when a little old Mexican lady walked up to my office door with a lunch box saying something about coca. Of course my first thought was this lady wants something to eat for lunch (I may have even translated her request to chocolate in my mind), but she didn’t fool Tamara who quickly told her no gracias and to move along.
Culture shock number four: germs. Pesky American germs combined with my heavy use of public transportation have brought me down four times in the last six weeks. No fun at all when your immune system just isn’t used to the everyday bugs floating around.
Culture shock number five: health care. Burke and I have health, dental and vision insurance! And I’ve used it! Twice! I was so pleased the first time I went to the doctor and went right in to a nice, new facility without having to wait. And then I talked to the doctor in English!
Culture shock number six: playgrounds. I ran by a playground the other day and it looked so futuristic, especially considering what we had in Slovakia.
Culture shock number seven: money. Mostly spending money. Burke and I became so accustomed over the last couple years to not spending money that it is incredibly difficult to readjust. For three years before buying anything I’d ask myself, “Can I live without this?” you probably think that sounds normal, good even, but let me tell you it was extreme. We went weeks in our new apartment without a trashcan because a bag hanging on a knob would do, without a bath mat because we could live with just drying off really, really well in the shower or without a second set of keys because as long as the elevator wasn’t propped open on a different floor I could usually access the laundry room. Now after the initial “Can I live without this” thought passes I ask myself, “Is this something that is found in a modest American home?” And now if for no reason other than keeping up social norms, our home is equipped with a few more things that have brought us into this modern century.
And while the culture shock comes and goes, whether funny or overwhelming, I sometimes find myself in situations where I feel like I am in my old home again. Sometimes I’m in a market where no one is speaking English or I hear someone call something red that’s actually orange…
The other day a man approached me as I was walking my bike towards the elevator to the subway and asked in a thick accent for directions. I told him sorry, I didn’t know but he lingered as I waited for the elevator. as the doors closed behind me he whispered, “Goodbye, I love you.” It brought me back to this guy in India who without a doubt would have asked me to marry him, had he only known the words. Maybe something’s aren’t so different after all.