Friday, February 25, 2011

Culture Shock

There’s always plenty to say about what threw me off guard when I first moved to France.  But honestly, the biggest culture shock I ever experienced was coming BACK to the U.S. after a three year absence. 

Strange but true.  I’m including an excerpt here from an online post I wrote in 2009 after arriving back in the states for the first time in a long time :

‘Well, here I am. Back in the U S of A.  It's been almost three years since I've been back to my homeland. (I feel like I'm in a confessional)

Coming back to the US is always an interesting experience for me.  It's strange to think that you can have culture shock when returning to your native country, yet that seems to be my case.

It usually takes me two weeks to get back into the flow of things over here.  The first week is spent in utter rebellion.  I don't like the food, or the commercials every three minutes, or the way you have to look at everyone you meet straight in the eye and wave no matter where you are.  What is with that?  At least there are no false pretenses with the french.  They frown straight away and you know where you stand.  The american's are sneakier in that they'll give you a big smile and wave and then say you look like deranged giraffe the moment you turn your back.

There's a Mcdonalds at fifteen minute intervals no matter where you go.  And it takes you at least that long to get anywhere.

I had a minor panic attack when I went to the grocery store.  There's just too much to look at.  Bottles and boxes and cans as far as the eye can see.  Everything is 'preprepared', mixed, flavored, or frozen.  You can't find the base ingredients to anything unless you dig, and even then, it's a long shot.  It took me twenty minutes to find plain couscous.  My father is going to take me to a whole foods store so that I can find my way around without an inhalor or a shot of 
valium.’

After experiencing this, I could easily imagine how the the United States might seem to a European seeing it for the first time.  Everything is super sized- the houses, buildings, grocery stores, cars, and food.

 It’s like living in a world of giants. 

I remember when I came back to France after that trip, it felt like my french appartment had shrunk in size.  And our seven seat mini van could’ve passed for a clown car compared to my father’s bronco.   I think in exchange, many americans visiting France or other places in Europe notice how small everything seems.  You can check out a post about that here.

Hope ya’ll have a great weekend!

*CQG*

28 comments:

Meredith said...

I want to live somewhere where I don't have to dig for the raw ingredients at grocery stores! That would be amazing.

salarsenッ said...

It's amazing how are surroundings can mold our tastes and attitudes. Interesting concept when developing characters...

Enjoy your weekend, girl.

Laura Pauling said...

That would be so weird to come back to my native country and experience culture shock! That's great you've adjusted to living over there!

Angelina Rain said...

I’m assuming you lived in a big city before you moved to France.

I was born in Europe, although I don’t remember much of it as my family can here when I was very young. However, I lived most of my life in Chicago and various southern suburbs. A few years ago I went to Kentucky to help a friend move. That was total culture shock. Everything was so far away. We had to drive for an hour to the nearest grocery store, my friend had to drive for like two hours just to get to the utility office to have her water turned on. To go to a good mall, you have to drive to Tennessee. And to buy alcohol, you have to drive to a different county. I stayed there for a week and by the end of it I couldn’t wait to come home to my over populated town.

Matthew Rush said...

I remember when you wrote about the opposite side of this coin. I'm not so sure that Europe's way is a bad thing.

Aleeza said...

i feel VERY similar whenever i come to my native country pakistan. i could go on and on about the culture shocks, but i think that sort of deserves its own blog post.
i do, howeverm find it sort of strange how your hometown shocks you so much when it's where you were born and grew up...its really fascinating to me, actually.
lovely post! :)

Pk Hrezo said...

I know just what you mean. There are too many choices here in the US. ANd everything is about commercials everywhere you go... always ads trying to sell you stuff. And no one wants to wait for anything. It's all about gimme gimmee now now.
I lived in India for a few months and coming back to the US was a strange feeling...

At any rate, welcome home.

BTW I love France and could live there quite comfortably forever. :)

Anne said...

I love seeing pictures of European apts and the tiny furniture. I bet I'd be a lot more willing to throw clutter away instead of clinging to it like I do now.

Gina said...

I remember going to London and being appalled by the way people drove. You do NOT want to be a pedestrian on British streets... they will mow you down without a second thought. Is it the same in France?

Carolyn V said...

It's so funny how different cultures can be. I would love to experience what living abroad would be like. We live small. We live in a little house and fit seven of us into a mini van. I actually love it.

Old Kitty said...

I remember visiting a friend in Houston. I remember thinking "where are the pavements?!?!?" and "why does it take a huge TANK to deliver our one Domino's pizza"?!!?

LOL! but I had a GREAT time!!!!!! And had Daquiries for the first time!!!!

Take care
x

Carolyn Abiad said...

I think it's like:
Reading a completely engrossing book and real life seems too loud and you feel like you've been underwater.
OR
When you switch software programs. OR
Leaving the roller rink (remember those?), or maybe coming out of dark movie theater and not knowing what time it is, (taking a nap can do it too)
OR
I could go on, but I really do know exactly what you mean! Disoriented. :)

Laura Marcella said...

That's really cool though! You get to see compare two very different cultures. I hope someday I experience culture shock in Europe! Let me tell you, I sure wouldn't mind the smallness. I don't like how big everything is here and I've lived here all my life, haha. It seems so unnecessary!

Melissa said...

I really want to go to Europe soon! I don't know, I kind of like the idea of most things being smaller. Sometimes, I feel like so many things are too big. That being said, I love wide open spaces so having a cramped apartment may not be the best thing ever... but a smaller fridge, food portions and cars sounds great!

nutschell said...

SOmetimes having too many choices just gets too stressful! You have to compare prices and ratings and what not. Everything is bigger in the US--especially the cars!
By the way, I joined the A to Z blogging challenge yesterday. I have no idea what I've gotten myself into, but I am excited. :)

Kathryn said...

Great post, and quite true. As a Canuck, our cultures aren't too different, but I definitely noticed a "bigger" sense of living here when I moved. And going back home, I find the air and food to be much fresher and much more natural. I teach ESL to adults here in Los Angeles, and the 100+ students I've had over the years have all told me the same thing, interesting, eh?

Heather Hellmann said...

I agree with what you said about making eye contact and smiling at everyone you pass. It can be so awkward, especially when they don't smile back. If I don't, though, I feel like I'm being rude.

Anne Gallagher said...

I moved from New England to the South 4 years ago and when I went home last summer for the first time, talk about a culture shock. It was as if everything I had grown up with was gone. No memories of anything.

I'm saving up to move to Provence. I don't care if they won't like me. They don't like me where I am either.

D. Rhodes said...

i met a woman once who went to america after defecting from an eastern bloc country; she told me that when she went to the supermarket to buy rice she stood in the aisle and wept because there were too many choices. imagine.

i'm going back to the states for a visit after living in the UK for a couple years. i wonder how it will feel.

Lindsay said...

I love visiting other countries on holiday, but it's alwys so amazing to me how different our cultures are.
I loved both times I've been on holiday to the US, but everything is so much bigger. I remember thinking I'd never find my way out of the Walmart in Florida. lol.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I wouldn't mind experiencing culture shock, but first I would have to leave the country! Haven't done that yet.

I can easily see how going to another country can cause culture shock, but it's really interesting (and makes perfect sense) that the opposite would happen to, when you return home after a long time away.

Jemi Fraser said...

There's even a difference between Canada & the US - it's always interesting to see different cultures! :)

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I hear you! When I go back to Canada, I'm amazed at the size of the grocery stores. They do have mega stores here, but mostly in the 'burbs. In central London the stores are teeny tiny.

Indigo said...

I think I would prefer small. Then again I'm not one of those people who love shopping and would rather eat a home cooked meal instead of fast food. I think so many Americans tend to live bigger than life and lose themselves in the excess. (Hugs)Indigo

WritingNut said...

I can't wait until I'm able to visit Europe... I love to experience new cultures. It's amazing how things change even from city to city sometimes :)

Her highness, Samantha Vérant said...

I ( my parents) moved around so much, I think I was numb to shock when I moved to France.

Caitlin said...

This reminds me of when we moved from England back to the states. I was around seven-years-old and started crying because I thought that someone had stolen our stairs! We had lived in two separate two-story houses in England and upon our return had moved into a one-story duplex.

But I also do most of my cooking from scratch, and I would love to not have to go digging for what I need!

Erin Kane Spock said...

My British brother-in-law had a panic attack the first time he visited a super-market here in Ca.
Likewise, I wanted to buy sour cream when I was in England and was stuck with tiny, yogurt sized containers of creme freche (sp?). I had to buy 3.

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