Hi! 🙂 I didn’t disappear — I just took a little break from expat life. My husband and I both needed to visit the US for work, so I decided to extend my trip and work from San Diego for a few weeks. It was a nice idea, but I did experience a bit of reverse culture shock along the way.
Grocery stores. The first time I went to the grocery store, I had a moment of panic as I stepped out of the car and realized I wasn’t carrying a cloth bag. I relaxed when I remembered the ubiquitous paper/plastic grocery bags. (Of course, we amassed at least a dozen plastic bags in just a few weeks, despite choosing paper bags a lot of the time.)
In the store, I was generally overwhelmed by the options. I was happy to see many of my old favorites, but there was so much to choose from. And then we went to check out. Everything moved so much slower, and I felt so useless standing there while the cashier rang everything up and then bagged it for me.
Cars, SUVs, Trucks … oh my! There’s almost no one walking around here. The sidewalks are mostly empty. I felt self conscious walking to the mall, less than a mile away. And the cars are huge — I found myself laughing at the giant trucks and SUVs barreling through the city streets with one, maybe two people in them. The biggest shock, though, was having to drive almost everywhere we went. This city is just so spread out!
Sunday shopping. I went to the mall on Sunday before coming home, and it was packed full of people. I felt guilty for reinforcing the 24/7 consumer mentality that so many people have here. That said, it was a relief to be able to go out on Sunday afternoon and pick up some things I needed. Sometimes I just can’t get everything done before 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Recycling. I had literally forgotten how to deal with the recycling. It was a relief to be able to toss all the recycling into one big bin, but I couldn’t recall which pieces of packaging could and couldn’t be recycled. Can bottle caps be recycled? Plastic bags? Plastic vegetable containers? I stood and stared at a dozen different pieces of packaging, puzzling over what to do with them — and getting frustrated at how many things I ended up throwing away.
It wasn’t all shock, of course. It was a relief to get to speak English outside of the house, not worrying about saying something wrong or misunderstanding someone. I also got to spend several weeks working in the same (or nearly the same) time zone as many of my coworkers. And I fell in love again with little things like the garbage disposal, the ice maker in the fridge, … and the sun. I’m back in Aachen now, and I’m just glad that the forecast is starting to look warmer!